Rather than being deflated by the failure of Hinsdale High School District 86’s referendum Tuesday, supporters of the measure to fund extensive improvements at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools are encouraged by how many more people voted yes than in 2017.
“Initially, we were disappointed,” said Hinsdale resident David Chiappe, one of the organizers of the campaign to pass the referendum. “We were actually very close.”
The school board has scheduled a special meeting for 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12 in the cafeteria at Hinsdale Central, 5500 S. Grant St., to discuss the referendum results.
Voters in District 86 have rejected two referendums in a row, a $76 million bond question for school upgrades in April 2017 and a $166.4 million bond referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to fund an even longer list of projects.
Only about 26 percent of voters voted in favor of the $76 million referendum, compared to 45.8 percent who voted in favor of the $166 million referendum.
“In 2017, we got crushed,” said Chiappe, who campaigned for that referendum as well.
“We are very energized for the future,” Chiappe said. A groundswell of support built up in the community that could become a tidal wave next time, he said.
The campaign started with just four organizers, Chiappe said.
But in the weeks leading up to Election Day, hundreds of people volunteered to canvass neighborhoods and campaign or donated money to a gofundme.com website page to help the cause, Chiappe said.
“The goal was to educate people with honest, factual information direct from District 86,” he said.
Canvassers explained to residents where they could find more information, including websites, blogs, videos and an online calculator that showed people what the referendum would cost them, based on the value of their particular home.
“Moving forward, so many people have been educated that rallying support will be easier,” Chiappe said.
He would not recommend narrowing the scope of the referendum to garner more support because all the projects proposed were vetted by focus groups and task forces and are needed, Chiappe said.
If the district puts forth another referendum, Chiappe said he will support it but will not lead the campaign as much as he did this time.
“Let someone else take the reins,” he said.
Lisa Lundgren, the treasurer of the political committee to support passage of the referendum, like Chiappe has participated in numerous focus groups and community task forces about the district’s facilities.
“The next effort will step up from where we are,” Lundgren said. “The reality is our schools have these needs and they are not going away. The community needs to come together and get this done.”
Burr Ridge resident Adolph Galinski said the defeat of the referendum shows residents want the district to put the unused facilities at Hinsdale South to work and to provide equal access to educational opportunities to all students.
Some people who live in Hinsdale South’s attendance area have complained the district does not offer the same depth and breadth of classes at South as at Central.
“The voters made a very strong statement,” Galinski said.
Zach Mottl, a member of the Burr Ridge Village Board, and chairman of the committee to opposed passage of the referendum, agreed.
While some people may have voted no simply because they do not want to pay additional property taxes, the high voter turnout and the election results show that both Democrats and Republicans voted against the district’s referendum.
“People want the district to provide a 21st century education, but they want to do it in a fiscally prudent manner,” Mottl said.
They want the district to balance the enrollment and the facilities between the schools, he said.
Mottl also said the failure of the referendum is a vote of no confidence in the District 86 School Board, which is not listening to the concerns of its residents.