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Voters face raft of referendums

Tax rates, power rates among ballot questions

Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Ogle County voters will decide numerous referendums, including a sales tax increase and a concealed carry recommendation, in Tuesday’s consolidated election.

A total of 13 questions are on ballots across the county.

Voters will also choose officials for cities and villages, townships, school districts, community college districts, regional school boards, park districts, library districts, and fire districts.

Two referendums are countywide: to establish a 1 percent sales tax for schools, and to allow “electrical aggregation” in unincorporated areas of the county. Voters also will get to decide on tax increases for the Oregon Library District and Stillman Valley Schools.

The county referendum on electrical aggregation asks voters whether they want to pool their purchasing power and have the county board negotiate for a better electricity rate. That question affects county residents who live outside municipalities. The same referendum was rejected by voters last March.

Since then, however, several townships and a village have approved referendums for electrical aggregation, joining other communities that already had the practice in place.

Municipal electrical aggregation gives municipalities, townships, or counties the authority to negotiate for the purchase of the combined electric supply of its residents and eligible small businesses. 

Six townships – Oregon-Nachusa, Lincoln, Lafayette, Grand Detour, Byron, and Woosung – also will have a referendum for aggregation on the ballot.

According to state law, if the countywide referendum is approved, it will be the only one moving forward with a program for all unincorporated residents.  

If the county referendum fails, and a township passes it, that township can proceed with the program.

Voters in those townships will see both the county and township referendums on the ballot.

Voters in Eagle Point, Flagg, Forreston, Leaf River, Maryland, Mount Morris, Pine Creek, Pine Rock, and Rockvale townships approved electrical aggregation last November.

Their programs will not be affected by the Ogle County referendum, and residents there will continue with their current lower rates, Mike Mudge of Rock River Energy Services said.

They will, however, have the option of joining the county’s plan should it prove cheaper than the township plan they already are part of, Mudge said.

Voters in Oregon, Mount Morris, Polo, and Forreston approved the measure in 2011, and Leaf River voters gave it the nod last November.

Anyone who does not wish to participate in the program can opt out of the process and stay with current supplier ComEd, or another supplier.

Voters also will be asked to approve a 1-percentage-point countywide sales tax increase to benefit schools. The revenue from the tax would be used only for school facilities.

A third countywide referendum will ask voters whether the General Assembly should enact legislation to permit citizens to carry concealed firearms. The referendum is advisory only and does not require the General Assembly to take action. State lawmakers rejected a similar measure last year.

Concealed carry got the unanimous support of the Ogle County Board on Oct. 16, when members approved a resolution to place the question on next week’s ballot. More than 900 county residents signed a petition favoring the measure.

Illinois is the only state that does not allow concealed carry.

The Lee County Board approved a similar resolution last year.

Two other referendums will seek real estate tax increases.

The Oregon Library District is asking voters to approve two referendums, one for the money to build a new library building and the other for an increase of 6 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation to maintain it.

The final ballot question is a a tax hike of $1.07 per $100 EAV in the Education Fund in the Stillman Valley School District.

The school board is asking for the increase to put the district back in black ink from a $1.9 million deficit.

If that is approved, taxes on a $100,000 home will increase $356 a year, excluding exemptions.

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