Imagine a husband who applies for a credit card – without telling his wife. In some states and circumstances, she will be liable for the debt, even if she didn’t know.
But she finds out – before he gets the loan – and she notifies the credit card company that she needs a say in the matter.
That’s what just happened between the East Alton-Wood River High School district and its taxpayers.
Last week, petitions with more than 1,100 signatures were submitted to the EA-WR district office, in response to its July 12 “backdoor referendum” that gave citizens 30 days to gather 832 signatures to put a $2.4 million bond issue on the March 19, 2024 ballot.
Going door to door, I gathered 300 of these signatures myself.
Without the signatures, the district could issue the bonds without voter approval – with taxpayers none the wiser – until their tax bills arrive in the mail.
How many people read the legal notices? It took another week before the citizens saw the legal notice and realized what the district was doing.
To make this sitcom even more interesting, on July 13 the Madison County Board voted against putting PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) on the ballot, for voters to adopt or reject.
Among other things, PTELL would effectively get rid of the tricky backdoor referendum.
And at the county board meeting, local school superintendents showed up to speak against PTELL.
That’s why I helped gather signatures. Backdoor referendums are fundamentally unfair. They are tax increases without voter approval.
Four times during my time as Chairman I have asked the county board to put PTELL on the ballot – for voters to decide. And although some have agreed with me, each time a majority has voted to keep PTELL off the ballot.
In a marriage, you shouldn’t have to “catch” your spouse trying to take out a loan.
Kurt Prenzler, CPA
Madison County Chairman
This letter to the editor was first published in the September 2023 print edition of the Illinois Business Journal.