More than 50 residents gathered at Strasburg Community Building Thursday to hear about a tax referendum proponents say is the only way to keep Stewardson-Strasburg from consolidating with other districts.
"The list of our town's accomplishments go on and on, but one thing we need to add to it is saving our schools," said Sara Long, a teacher at Stewardson-Strasburg High School. "Our schools are the heart of our community."
The referendum, which would raise property taxes by $0.50 per $100 estimated assessed value, or EAV, of a property for the next five years could prevent consolidation and would allow the district to move past continuing losses in state aid.
"If this doesn't pass, it'll tear the community apart," said Kevin Mathis of Strasburg. "I've got two kids, and I want them to graduate Stew-Stras."
Mathis said one of his main concerns if the referendum doesn't pass is the possibility of sending his children to another district.
"I live right in town and if this doesn't pass, my kids would be on the bus for an hour and go to Shelbyville or Beecher City or Windsor, and I'd be paying their taxes," he said. "Both of our communities are going to fall apart without it."
Alex Walden, an eighth grade student at Stewardson-Strasburg said he had come to the event to talk from a student's perspective about why passing the referendum was important.
"I ride the bus for about an hour and 10 minutes most days, and if we consolidate with another district, I'd have to ride for over two hours," he said. "I don't like riding the bus for any longer than I absolutely have to."
Walden said he also wanted to be able to keep making memories at the school he's attending.
"I hope it passes, so we can still have a place to go to school," he said. "I want to keep the experiences and keep the memories that we all made here."
The sense of keeping the experience of attending Stewardson-Strasburg schools was important to others as well.
"It's important not just for the schools but to maintain the viability of the communities," said Lucinda Held, a faculty member. "I went to Stew-Stras, and I'd like to keep my school. This is not a forever tax, and it's the least they can do for us after the state keeps making cuts."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or firstname.lastname@example.org