Rockridge superintendent: Taxes will rise despite vote

The Rockridge bond referendum was voted down in the March 18 primary.  Some voters were hesitant to approve the measure because it would have meant a substantial tax hike.

Some people in the area that are frustrated with the outcome.

Elizabeth Hughes, whose three kids attend Rockridge schools, said the schools’ low funding is causing her kids to fall behind.

“I want my children…to compete with their peers, and right now there is a significant disadvantage with what we have in our classrooms and with what their peers have 10 to 15 miles away,” said Hughes.

The schools that were being considered for closure are old buildings that need major renovation.

“They are major improvements that those schools need,” Hughes said. “They’re not knicky-knack, cosmetic, minor fixes. These are major fixes that need to be done,” Hughes said.

Hughes said she thinks voters probably weren’t informed enough to make an educated decision on how to vote, so they automatically voted ‘no’ when they heard their taxes would be raised.

What they don’t realize, she said, is that their taxes will be raised one way or another because the school district is running out of money.

The district projects the education fund will be out of money by the end of 2017, which is why district officials proposed closing three small elementary schools and consolidating them into one larger school in Edgington.

Rockridge Superintendent Dr. Chester Lien said the district has cut a lot of programs such as after school activities, special education, and some sports because of funding problems.

“When we started this 14 months ago, the whole quest was, ‘What can we do to put the district on a better financial basis?'” Lien said.  “After a lot of research, a lot of studying on how to do this, the consolidated elementary not only provided a better financial footing for the district, it provided a better educational environment for our kids.”

For voters like Hughes, the idea of continuing to pay for old, rundown schools is exasperating.

“It’s like putting money into an old car. Why would you keep putting money into these buildings? They will not be here 15 years from now. From a business standpoint this is not a good investment,” Hughes said.

4 comments

  • Maggie

    I find this funny. I received a wonderful education at Rockridge. My family moved back to Silvis in the middle of my sophomore year in high school. I was excited to go to UT, thinking that a bigger school meant better opportunities and education. Boy, was I wrong. Building a new building would serve what purpose to the students? Bring more students? More taxpayers? Cool, it will be like every other school that’s ten miles away that you really don’t want your children going to in the first place… or else you’d live there. Maybe if the district is having to cut activities it’s because they’re spending too much. So how would a new school be any different?

  • Maggie

    Also, last time I checked you don’t have to be well informed on a situation before you vote. I’m pretty sure everyone has that right. Telling people they weren’t informed after they already voted is just being a sore loser.

  • dk

    Perhaps Dr. Lien needs to manage the district better… maybe the board should cut his $130,000 + a year salary? We continue to dump more and more money into public education and it appears student performace continues to slide, and the teacher and admin pay continues to rise. $ does not correlate to a more educated student.

  • Ranger Roy

    From one of the “uninformed” to the “informed”, I would like to point out to Ms. Hughes that fortunately we live in a society where she is free to take her 3 children and move to one of those school districts she feels would offer the advantages she feels is necessary to guarantee the future success of her children.

    The Rockridge school district has always been, and is, one of the better school districts in the area. I consider myself fortunate to have attended the schools in the area, and regret that I did not take full advantage of all the opportunities to educate myself the district offered. Graduates have gone on to successful and productive careers such as bankers, hairdressers, lawyers, mechanics, judges, chefs, technicians of all types, nurses, farmers, teachers, firemen, police officers, bakers, candlestick makers, and one of the best chiropractors in the area. I don’t see much of a disadvantage if any.

    It is unfortunate that this issue continues to frustrate and divide some of us in the community. A decade ago it was about busing our children hours to attend school. This time it appears some rallied around saving the grade schools in their area. Like some, I don’t like the idea of putting more money into aging relics. However if the best we can do is spend $15 million on an addition to an existing structure we need to step back and approach this again. Life has taught me that anytime someone tells me that taking my money is the best thing for me, I start to examine what is motivating them. My guess is someone was counting on part of that $375,000 a year we were going to save would end up in their pocket.

    And yes Ms. Hughes, having been in business, sometimes you fix up that old car if you don’t think buying a new one is the right thing to do at the time.

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