Rockridge voters will see two school funding issues on ballot

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In less than three weeks, voters in the Rockridge School District will be asked to support two separate ballot issues to fund their schools. While some parents say both are needed, others believe the district is simply asking for too much.

The first issue is a $15 million bond referendum that would be used to build a new, consolidated elementary school in Edgington on the southern edge of Rockridge Junior and Senior High School. The three current elementary schools in Illinois City, Taylor Ridge and Andalusia would close.

The referendum is supported by a group of concerned community members known as Rockridge Forward. Wednesday, member Herb Schultz said the need to replace the outdated elementary schools is "very real."

"I was fortunate. My parents played higher taxes so I could go to a new school, and I think that we have stopped doing that, and we've decided, 'Well, we'll let these schools go to pot,'" said Schultz.

Schultz says that over the next 20 years, the district will have to spend at least $8 million to bring the current elementary schools up to safety code. Building a new school would save roughly $375,000 a year in administrative and maintenance costs.

"We're gonna waste money on keeping up three old cars instead of buying one nice, new car that saves us gas," he explained.

The bond referendum, though, would come at a price. If passed, it would add an estimated $175 to annual property taxes on a $100,000 home.

"Personally, I'm not for it," said John Abbott as he waited for his granddaughter outside Andalusia Elementary. "I want the kids to get a good education, but you just can't keep throwing it on the backs of the homeowners."

What Abbott will support is a second, separate ballot issue for area schools -- a 1 percent sales tax for facility improvements at all Rock Island County schools.

Rockridge Forward members say they need both ballot initiatives to pass. Schultz says the estimated $600,000 the sales tax would bring in would go towards other upgrades needed at the high school and junior high buildings.

"We really need both, hand-in-hand," said Schultz.

Both the bond referendum and the 1 percent sales tax will be on the March 18, 2014, general primary ballot. For more information on the referendum, including a property tax calculator, you can visit the Rockridge Forward website here.