Many proposals put on area ballots

Many proposals put on area ballots

Area voters will consider issues ranging from school consolidation to new fire stations, mass transit, fire protection and sales taxes in the upcoming March 21 primary.

Tuesday was the final day for individual citizens to submit petitions to put questions on the March ballot. Governmental bodies have until Jan. 17 to submit questions for voter approval.

The issue garnering the greatest attention so far has been in southwest Champaign, where residents are seeking to create their own mass transit district to avoid being annexed into the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Last year, 1,014 southwest Champaign voters (more than half of the registered voters there) signed a petition to create their own district. A few days later, the C-U MTD board voted to annex much of the same area but not all of it.

The boundaries of the proposed district include Interstate 57, Curtis Road, the Champaign Township boundary and Interstate 72 to the north. It includes the subdivisions of Lincolnshire Fields, Trails at Brittany, Ironwood, Copper Ridge, Glenshire and Turnberry Ridge.

The MTD has a property tax rate of 26 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a $250,000 home with the standard homestead exemption will pay about $200 this year to the MTD if the property remains in that district.

A second ballot question affects areas on the edge of Champaign. Residents of several neighborhoods recently annexed into the city will vote on whether they want to be part of Champaign Township or the City of Champaign Township. The decision will determine which township will get thousands of dollars in property tax revenue and which township will provide those areas with services.

Residents of a rural neighborhood southeast of Urbana will decide where they want to receive fire protection services.

The Aero Place subdivision receives service from the Philo Fire Protection District. But a group of residents led by attorney Steve Beckett and his son, Chad Beckett, have placed a question on the ballot asking to transfer the area to the Edge-Scott Fire Protection District.

"It makes sense because Edge-Scott is closer to us," Steve Beckett said.

Fire protection is also an issue in Gifford, where the fire department board is asking for voter approval of $900,000 in bonds to pay to build and equip a new fire station.

The village of Longview could soon get its own sales tax. The Longview Village Board recently placed a question on the ballot to impose a one-half percent sales tax on retail sales.

Ogden residents will have two different ballot questions to consider on March 21.

One will determine whether the Ogden and Prairieview school districts should be consolidated into a single district.

Victor White, who serves as superintendent for both of these northeast Champaign County school districts, said Ogden and Prairieview are losing money because of smaller enrollments and declining assessed valuations. Meanwhile, fuel, utility, salary and employee benefit costs are going up.

If the consolidation ballot question is approved, White said, the state will give the new district $1.3 million over four years to cover the costs associated with the merger.

According to White, all three school buildings would remain open, but they would be slightly reorganized.

Kindergarten through fourth grades would be divided between Royal and Ogden. All fifth- and sixth-graders would go to Ogden, and all seventh- and eighth-grade students would attend classes in Flatville.

Meanwhile, the St. Joseph-Ogden High School board voted a few weeks ago to place a question on the ballot asking for the issuance of $8.5 million in bonds over 20 years to pay for an expansion of the high school.

School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said the district has been considering various expansion options, including the construction of a whole new high school.

The proposal calls for adding 42,000 square feet to the current high school and remodeling another 16,000 square feet.

The project includes 10 new classrooms, an expanded library, a new chorus and band room, an expanded cafeteria and commons area, a remodeled industrial arts and agriculture facility, new administrative offices and an elevator.

Some restrooms will be upgraded, and most of the existing classrooms will be air-conditioned.

If the ballot question passes, the owner of a $150,000 home with standard exemptions would pay an additional $115 a year in property taxes.

The Gifford school board agreed in December to put a question on the March 21 ballot seeking money to expand the school building, though paperwork for the question had not yet been filed at the county clerk's office on Tuesday.

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