Group questions Hononegah $44M referendum proposal

A plan to replace Hononegah’s bubble is drawing the scrutiny of a state taxpayer advocacy group over a $44 million school renovation referendum on the upcoming Nov. 8 ballot.

An effort to replace the $3.5 million inflatable athletic dome, which collapsed last winter at the 2,000-plus-student Hononegah Community High School, has ballooned into a $44 million proposed tax hike that would fund numerous other projects at the school as well, including a new indoor sports venue, a new pool, new cafeteria, new tennis courts and a new performing arts center.

“Folks promoting these referenda say, ‘We need “x” dollars, and we cannot do it for a penny less.’ And so, here you’ve got the case with Hononegah, and they’re asking for $44 million, generally the life of the bond is 20 years,” Andrew Nelms, Illinois deputy director of Americans for Prosperity, said.

The loss of the dome, which lasted 13 years, prompted the district school board to accelerate plans to raise an estimated $80 million for current and future needs at the high school, according to a story in the Beloit Daily News.

The referendum amount equals about half of the total projected cost of desired projects, as the state caps referendum proposals at $44 million.

In August, just prior to the submission deadline for referendum questions, school board officials approved the wording, which some have called vague, for the ballot measure.

The Beloit Daily News said that if the measure is approved, the referendum would cost the owner of a $100,000 house approximately $130 in additional property taxes annually.

“Whether it’s a sports stadium or a new school, our primary concern is always, ‘Are these tax dollars being used wisely, and could they be used more efficiently,’” Nelms said, adding that his group continually works to make sure “folks are allowed to keep as much of their money as they possibly can.”

–Illinois News Network

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