What I need in order to support a November tax referendum

I have been chewing on the discussions in regards to the potential November tax referendum for the high school. To be honest, one of my challenges is to figure out what I require, not necessarily to parrot what someone else has said. Thus, my goal in making this list public is to get you chewing on your own requirements. On the chance that Unit 4 does indeed put forth a referendum in a future ballot, what prerequisites need to be met in order for you to support it?


Source: Patterson's American Education

Source: Patterson’s American Education

Here is my list, in no particular order whatsoever:

  1. Exact amount of the referendum
  2. Updated enrollment projections (not the old ones from Dejong-Richter)
  3. Current capacity at each school
  4. A strategic plan that is adaptive and flexible. Back in 1969, Unit 4 had 12,381 students
  5. A correlation between the goods and services being purchased and the positive effect on graduation and all student success
  6. A financial plan that will allow us to build up for the next round of capital improvements
  7. A show of support for school funding reform, with clear and sound ideas on how to better fund the needs of the district
  8. Visible and documented actions that demonstrate the district and board are going out to the community to learn what the community desires
  9. A clear and comprehensive justification why the district absolutely requires 47+ acres for a new high school


Some are no-brainers; of course the exact amount of the referendum will be made known! But why is it not known now? The same point can be made for other items on that list (for example, #2, #3, #4). How are tax-payers and voters supposed to make informed decisions via a process of deliberation? Yes, I realize this is a constant battle between allowing community members to have a voice (of which I am obviously a huge advocate and proponent) versus drawing the line and making a final decision. But here is where I have a problem; over the past couple of decades, we have known we need to prepare and plan for capital improvements, but only in the past 7 years did we even start the most minimal of those steps (“Great Schools, Together”, taking out loans to build Barkstall and Stratton, using 1% Sales Tax money to build and renovate many elementary schools). We still do not have a 10-year plan, let alone a 20-year or 40-year plan. We still do not fully know how the finances will play out (part of the fault is with the uncertainty of federal/state funding). We still do not know why we can’t build vertically, or how new facilities helps struggling students.


Some of the items I have listed above are hard to measure (violating the tenets of SMART goals). What exactly makes a 47+ acre justification “clear and comprehensive”? How many “visible and documented actions” must the district and board demonstrate in order to check off item #8?


I hope to refine that list. If there were a vote today, I could not vote in favor.


In a recent email exchange via a certain email list that has a number of parents, in the context of a discipline issue one mentioned that perhaps more money should be invested into teaching kids about the ramifications of bad choices (this would be an awesome educational topic for adults, as well 🙂 ). That is a subject that really struck a chord with me. Ultimately the question of funding comes down to what is being accomplished. It is “easy” to build new facilities, staff them with adults and fill them with students. It is more challenging to build and generate a successful society.


What does your list look like?


7 Responses to “What I need in order to support a November tax referendum”

  1. pattsi Says:

    To add to what is probably a growing list:

    1. Absolute guarantee that Unit 4 will not go for another referendum or increase in the 1% sales tax for a minimum of 5 years.
    2. That there is a transportation study that projects the increase in traffic, traffic patterns, increases in driving time, extra costs to the taxpayers to accommodate these increases and how long it will take to put the road improvements in place.
    3. Transportation systems that will allow all attending students no matter where they live within the community that the students can stay after school for whatever activity and still have transportation means to get home without a trail of parental cars heading north at 4:30 P.
    4. Run 3 scenarios that will show the economics costs to the taxpayers that will ensue due to the placement of the HS related to sprawl, which will occur. The specific economic costs will be park district, MTD, more roads, maintenance of the present and future roads, air pollution due to the increased traffic, cost in human time to get to the new site–in other words externalities that have not been discussed. This is the antithesis of the micro-urban video the UIUC Chancellor just launched. View here http://micro-urban.com/
    5. Plans to make certain that there is convenient connectivity to this new site so the north end does not become isolated.

    I am interested in the bucket lists of others.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Good ones.

      Personally, I have lost confidence in the Tranffic Impact Analysis (TIA); the couple that I have read might be based on eimpircal data, but there is absolutely no accountability if the projections just happen to be way off. Nobody ever goes back to make sure the projections were even close, and we all just live with the consequences. So why even have a TIA in the first place?

  2. Doug Snackwell Says:

    Shrink this post down, convert it to inverted-pyramid style and submit it to the News-Gazette as a guest op-ed. Or as a letter to the editor. I think the points your raise deserve to be heard by others in the community.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Wiki says: Inverted Pyramid

      So, got an anecdote for me to borrow? 🙂

      As I start to “shrink this post down” and refine it, I might as well ask you all to do the same with your own lists.

      Another thing I really want to get a strong handle on is exactly what kind of timeframes are absolutely necessary. I get that our high schools are currently “over capacity” (a term that lends itself to confusion from a literal perspective – you can’t put 3 gallons of water in a 2 gallon container, at least not at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressures). Board President Laurie Bonnett somehwat jokingly said that Plan B is secure more portable units. While ugly and despised by those in administration, is it an acceptable compromise to the community as a means to figure out what to do if the referendum fails?

      It seems to me that an ideal situation would be for the district to figure out what, at a minimum, 70% of the community is willing to agree on and then make a referendum that reflects those findings. To that end, I can just shut up and let the vote happen. 🙂

    • charlesdschultz Says:



      I have not pursued an op-ed or guest commentary.

  3. pattsi Says:

    Doug, thank you for making this suggestion to Charles.

  4. Why I voted “no” to the $149 million bond referendum | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] in April, I mentioned several things that I personally was looking for that would catapult me into a “yes” vote. There are […]

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