For the third time since last February, Mokena voters said no to a referendum that would have raised property taxes and decreased Mokena School District 159's $2.7 million deficit.
According to unofficial results, 2,557 voted no (54 percent) and 2,167 voted yes (46 percent). The measure would have increased property taxes by 29 cents per $100 equalized assessed value.
"Everyone has had to learn to do more with less," said school board candidate Mike Ford, who campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and who led the polls with 25 percent of the Board of Education vote. "The voters have spoken for the third time."
Mary Cummins, a parent and member of the committee for the referendum, said she was disappointed with the result. "It seems like elsewhere in the suburbs, a referendum is an automatic 'yes'," she said. "What's so different about Mokena that we can't get this passed?"
School administrators had said that if the referendum were to pass, the district would restore programs including full-day kindergarten and extracurriculars as well as staff.
"I'm just so disappointed for the students in Mokena," said Superintendent Karen Perry. "It's a shame they're going to have to pay for this."
New Lenox Precinct 7, Frankfort Precinct 10 and Frankfort Precinct 27 were the only precincts in the school system to tilt in favor of the referendum; 12 others opposed it.
While just 390 votes marked the difference between "yes" and "no" Tuesday night, pending the count of provisional ballots, the school board election was much closer.
Ford was leading with 25 percent of the vote, or 2,549 ballots cast in his favor, according to the unofficial results. Pro-referendum candidate Joe Spalla was behind him with 24.81 percent of the vote (2,442). Patrick Markham, who ran alongside Ford in opposition to the referendum, had 24.69 percent of the vote (2,430). He was only eight votes ahead of pro-referendum candidate Carrie Zakula, who got 24.61 percent (2,422).
With all precincts counted, Spalla appeared to trail but he leapt ahead when the early voting figures were added in late Tuesday night.
With the race so close, candidates were hesitant to comment on the results.
"It's anybody's rules," Markham said.
The voter turnout in Will County was 18.82 percent overall, with 70,992 ballots cast among the 376,923 eligible voters.
Clarification: Mike Ford campaigned on a platform of "fiscal responsibility." This article originally misstated his campaign's message as "anti-referendum."