Rockridge School District Ballot Question: Pass Or Not, Property - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Rockridge School District Ballot Question: Pass Or Not, Property Taxes Will Go Up

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Voting for the primary election is a week away in Illinois and the Rockridge School District is hoping a question on the ballot will help them pay for a new elementary school.

Rockridge is asking the voters to let them make some other changes to schools and the bus barn. 

Last year the Rockridge School District closed Reynolds Elementary School. Now there's three elementary schools, one in Andalusia, Illinois City and Taylor Ridge. 

On the ballot next week the district is proposing a building referendum that would close these three existing schools and combine them into one, new centralized elementary school. 

This new facility would cost nearly $15 million and would be next to the Rockridge High School separated by a parking lot about 150 yards away. 

As for whether the referendum will pass, the Rockridge community seems pretty split on the issue. 

A committee of concerned citizens started researching over a year ago how to reduce district spending. They determined consolidating the elementary schools into one, centralized facility would save about $375,000 a year.

Ten years ago a similar referendum tried to be passed that failed.

"Within that 10 years, we've lost teachers, we've lost other certified staff and we've had to close another school," said committee member of Rockridge Forward Jeff Keller. "They're continuing to say they want to save our schools, how long until we have to close another school?"

This proposal would cost nearly $15 million which would be paid for by bonds, but those who oppose the proposition say it's going to cost taxpayers too much money. 

"It seems to me much more logical to take the good buildings that we have and tweak them a bit to accommodate the students that we have," said Karen Hilgers apart of the Save Our Schools Group.

Hilgers said there already isn't a big enough tax differential from living in rural areas like the Rockridge communities than there is living in urban areas and this would hike taxes up even more giving less incentive for people to come to their area. 

Rockridge Superintendent Dr. Lien said this is the best financial option for the citizens, because even if they don't build the new school they still have to do repairs on the old ones, raising property taxes no matter what.

"What they need to realize is their property taxes are going to go up if the referendum doesn't pass, then the district's going to be in position where they're going to have to sell life safety bonds, which raises your property taxes anyway," said Dr. Lien.

Community voters spoke out on what they think: 

"I mean I don't doubt that the kids would like to have a new school, I'd love to have one too but the truth is with the economy the way it is, food the way it is, gas the way it is, we can't afford it. Can't afford it," said Shelly Hoffman.

"I am definitely going to vote for the referendum to pass next Tuesday because the new building would be so beneficial to our children and our community," said Jenny Ehrhardt. "We have three aging buildings and it would really help streamline everything and keep our resources together."

Residents in Mercer and Rock Island County living in the school district will have their say on March 18th. 

If the referendum is passed, how would it add up cost-wise in the Rockridge district? If the assessed value of your home is $100,000, your property taxes would go up about $175 per year.


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