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D303 referendum opponent says he might back cheaper alternative
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/23/2009 12:05 AM

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One of the leading opponents of a potential $294 million tax increase referendum in St. Charles Unit District 303 says a smaller referendum might be more palatable if the school board decides to go that route.

"I think they are going to go with a $120 million referendum," said Brian Litteral, a member of Citizens for Fiscal and Academic Responsibility. "My knee-jerk reaction is to also vote no on a smaller referendum, that this is just not the right time for this. My thought is to let people get through the year and get back on their feet. But I have to take a better look at what they want to do. I'm not sure how I'd vote yet."

Litteral and CFAR have spent the past few months trying to shoot holes in the Summit 303 process and the idea that the voting community at large can or would support a $294 million tax increase to renovate or rebuild every school in the district. A recent telephone poll about such a question indicates the group could be right. The majority of the 500 respondents said they'd vote the proposal down even when asked three different ways in the poll. The outcome is the exact opposite of what participants told the school board through the Summit 303 process.

"It's a vindication of not only just the basic premise that the general populace does not want the referendum, but also points out how invalid the Summit 303 process was," Litteral said.

That point is likely to remain contentious as district staff have viewed the poll answers regarding the summit process as a success with about 50 percent of the district community saying they were aware of the summit meetings. Nearly 80 percent said they felt informed about events in the district.

Litteral said that doesn't mean respondents felt confident in the validity of the outcome. Litteral and CFAR have long said the only reason the summit recommended the $294 million referendum was because teachers, students and parents with students were overrepresented at the meetings. With the results of the poll, the district staff has now recommended a $99 million referendum that implements only the middle school portion of the $294 million plan for the time being. The district could reap up to $128 million through a plan that would not raise taxes, but would also block taxes from decreasing.

Litteral said it might be a better - even a good - plan, but it's late in the process to stick that in front of voters.

"It's a tactical withdrawal," Litteral said "They're not fully retreating, but they are trying to get by with what they can. If you want to change the rules in the middle of the game, you've got to start over."