Voters Pass $140M Referendum for Hinsdale District 86

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

Voters in the western suburbs passed a nearly $140 million referendum Tuesday night to fund improvements to buildings in Hinsdale Township High School District 86.

Sixty percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of the referendum, with 96 percent of precincts reporting as of 11:45 p.m., according to unofficial results from the DuPage County clerk's office. 

"Our community values its schools and through this vote has said it wants its facilities to be sound in their infrastructure and as safe and secure as we can make them,” Dr. Bruce Law, district superintendent said in a statement.

“Our community rightfully demands excellence from its high schools, and soon our facilities will be on par with the outstanding instruction going on inside them," Law's statement continued.  

The funding will 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 will go to Central, which serves 65 percent of the district's students, and the remaining 43 percent of the money will go to South, according to the district.

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

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 debate over the referendum became 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 had previously not had a referendum pass in 63 years and that every renovation on the list was necessary. Opponents said 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 said they 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.

As a result of the referendum's passage, the school board was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to begin reversing cuts approved in December that would have paid for mandatory safety and security upgrades after the initial referendum failed, the district said. 

The board was also expected to authorize the schools' administrators to seek proposals from construction management firms on Wednesday, with selection slated for spring and work beginning "as soon as possible," the district said. 

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