CHAMPAIGN — The campaign collecting signatures with a goal of putting the Champaign school board's working cash bond issue on the ballot fell short.
But the local businessman behind the campaign, Don Kermath, said it could still be successful if it prompts the school board not to issue the bonds or rework their plans for the money.
He said he's hoping citizens will come to next Monday's school board meeting (it's a regular meeting that's scheduled for 6 p.m. April 9 at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., C) and make their opinions known.
Kermath collected about 2,300 signatures in conjunction with his website, avoiceforschools.com, which fell short of the 5,900 he needed to make the bond issue a question on the November ballot. The deadline for signatures was Friday. The bond issue will raise property taxes $25 for the owner of a $150,000 home.
"They can decide 2,300 signatures is enough to change their mind," Kermath said. "That's a lot of people."
The school district didn't receive any other signatures aside from those collected in Kermath's campaign, district spokeswoman Lynn Peisker said.
Kermath said his petition campaign just didn't have enough volunteers or time but said he thinks that so many people making an effort to sign indicates the public's concern about the bond issue.
Many times, a volunteer approaches a potential signer with a petition. In this case, those signing did so at 24 local businesses, he said.
"This time, people were anxious to sign a petition," he said.
School board member Tommy Lockman brought up his desire to discuss the working cash bond issue more at the school board's March 26 meeting. Board member Dave Tomlinson reminded him that, because school board members voted unanimously on the bond issue, someone needs to change his or her vote to discuss it again.
Lockman said he doesn't know yet if he's going to change his vote, but said he wants to discuss the bond issue after hearing the community's feedback.
He also thinks the board needs to discuss what was actually promised when the schools facility sales tax referendum was passed. That 1 percent tax pays for building improvements in Champaign County schools, and Champaign used its money to repay $83 million in bonds that have paid for new elementary schools, remodeling others and buying land for a new Central High School.
"It just became clear that there is some confusion about the sales tax projects and what that money is intended for and what it's being used for," Lockman said. "We never really had the working cash bond discussion in that context. I thought it would be good for us as a board to have that discussion and for the public to understand how those things interact."