Voters to Weigh in on $140M Referendum for Hinsdale District 86

The funding would be spent to restore programs and undertake major improvements at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools

Voters in the western suburbs will cast their ballots once more Tuesday on a nearly $140 million referendum to fund improvements to buildings in Hinsdale Township High School District 86.

A similar referendum, for $166.4 million, was rejected in the November 2018 elections. The district's school board then voted to put another referendum on Tuesday's ballots, for $26.6 million less.

The funding would be spent to restore programs and undertake major improvements at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools.

Among the projects are replacing the decades-old pools at both schools, for a combined cost of $24.3 million, renovating both cafeterias for $7.9 million, over $11 million of security, safety and accessibility upgrades, plus various technology upgrades, and more.

About 57 percent of the referendum funding would go to Central, which serves 65 percent of the district's students, and the remaining 43 percent of the money would go to South, according to the district.

"It's really based on projects and age of the infrastructure and needs of each building," Supt. Bruce Law said.

The debate over the referendum has become so contentious, the organizer of the "Yes" movement said she had to file a police report for harassment while campaigning.

"We feel like we’re on some kind of reality TV show because it’s so outrageous," Kari Galassi said. A video circulated Monday showing someone ripping a "Vote Yes" yard sign out from in front of a Hinsdale home, replacing it, and launching eggs at the windows and doors. 

"There’s so much passion behind this. I think the level of frustration has gotten so high," Galassi added. 

Galassi said the school has not had a referendum pass in 63 years and that every renovation on the list is necessary. Opponents say the costs - paid for by property tax increases - are wasteful and not affordable.

Some Hinsdale seniors will never see any of the benefits of the referendum, but many of those old enough to vote say they want to cast their ballots in favor.

"I want my younger brother to have the same opportunities as me, and I don’t want the school to fall apart," senior Hannah Kiperman said. She and her peers staged a walkout Monday morning in support of the referendum and urged others to join them.

The question, "Shall the Board of Education of Hinsdale Township High School District Number 86, DuPage and Cook Counties, Illinois, improve the sites of, renovate, alter, repair and equip and replace portions of the Hinsdale South High School Campus and Hinsdale Central High School Campus, including, but not limited to, installing school safety and emergency response systems and equipment; making facilities Americans with Disabilities Act accessible to persons with disabilities; repairing 60-year old infrastructure; and improving the electrical capacity and lighting in older classrooms, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $139,815,983 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?" will be on ballots for voters who live in the district Tuesday.

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