Unit 5 tax referendum influences local election results

By Farah Bassyouni Apr7,2023

IWU Hansen Student Center was a designated polling place for students to vote on April 4th.

Credit: iwuwebsite

McLean County’s elections took place on Tuesday, April 4 and had a 25 percent turnout of voters. While that may not seem like a lot, it’s more than the turnout in other recent non-mayoral elections. In 2019, the voter turnout was 12 percent. 

There was a large interest in the Unit 5 tax referendum, which is assumed to prevent schools from facing budget cuts starting in the next academic year.  Voters were asked to increase the Education Fund tax rate cap. 

Over 59 percent of voters voted ‘Yes’ on the referendum, according to WGLT’s tallies of election returns. This vote also led to school board president Barry Hitchins announcing a meeting to reverse budget cuts that were decided on in January. This was Unit 5’s second attempt to pass the measure, as it failed to pass in November. 

The effort to pass the referendum was led by the Yes For Unit 5 pro-referendum community group and supported by Unit 5 Education Association teachers’ union McLean County Democrats and both Twin City mayors.

It seems the interest in the referendum also played a role in other areas of the election as well. Opposition to the referendum was led by the McLean County Republican Party and many anti-referendum school board candidates were defeated on Tuesday. Elected Normal Town council members Kathleen Lorenz and Andy Byars both noted the referendum’s impact on the council race. 

“I really feel like the referendum kind of was the driving factor that drove people to want to run for the school board, to have an influence on how that would look going forward. A lot of people had ideas about how to resolve the deficit. And so, you know, there was a lot of engagement,” Unit 5 school board member Kelly Pyle told WGLT. 

Regardless of the turnout, a mix of Republicans, Democrats and non-aligned supporters all celebrated Tuesday night at the Stave Wine Bar in Uptown Normal.

IWU Physics Professor Marc Tiritilli, who also ran for council but was not elected, thanked his supporters after the election results. 

“We are privileged to live within a system where everyone has a chance to be heard and the transfer of authority takes place smoothly. I hope you will join me in congratulating the winners of this election. Let us all work together to make Normal’s future the best it can be,” Tiritilli said.

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