Cairo voters reject $4.1 million bond issue for new school

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

CAIRO, Ill. -- Deciding an issue that pitted Cairo's mayor against the school superintendent, Cairo voters have overwhelmingly defeated a $4.1 million bond issue that would have enabled the school district to replace three deteriorating buildings with a new school.

The vote Tuesday was 739-337 against the bond issue with part of one precinct still unreported. The election also was a primary for candidates running for state offices.

The bond issue was intended to help pay for construction of a new kindergarten through eighth-grade school. The bond issue would have been matched by $12 million in state funds.

Cairo Mayor James Wilson actively criticized the bond issue during the campaign, claiming the schools need to focus more on academics and less on buildings.

Tuesday night, Wilson called the election "an overwhelming defeat for the school district." He said voters already paying the highest taxes in Southern Illinois could not afford to pay more.

He said the schools need to start paying attention to the buildings they already have. "The schools have been neglected. They're not doing basic maintenance."

Had the bond issue passed, Cairo property taxes would have increased an average of $1.27 per $100 assessed valuation over the next 20 years. The tax rate would have been $7.43 per $100 assessed valuation the first year and would have fluctuated between $6.26 and $6.39 through 2020. That compares to $3.03 per $100 assessed valuation in the nearby Egyptian school district.

The owner of a $60,000 home in Cairo would have paid about $254 more in taxes per year had the bond issue passed.

The school district planned to build the junior high wing of the new school behind the current junior high, then demolish the old junior high to make way for the school's elementary wing. The current junior high school is 53 years old. The other two elementary school buildings, Emerson and Bennett, are 50 and 54 years old, respectively.

School superintendent Robert Isom argued that the learning atmosphere in the schools was suffering because of the conditions that include poor heating, lack of space and pest infestations.

He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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