With the school district's financial future on the ballot, Stewardson and Strasburg residents voted in favor of a tax referendum Tuesday.
By less than 100 votes — 504 "yes" and 426 "no" votes — residents approved a five-year property tax increase that would keep the district afloat and prevent consolidation.
Bob Schlechte, who was re-elected to the board Tuesday with 546 votes, said he was hopeful the referendum would pass.
"I was fairly optimistic it would pass," he said. "I just thought it would. I thought the margin would have been a little wider than it was, but I'm obviously glad it passed."
Chad Smith, who also was re-elected to his board position with 553 votes, said the referendum will benefit local residents.
"In the end, it's going to mean good things for the community," he said. "It's going to be the salvation of our schools. It's going to be good for our schools. I'm excited it passed."
Sara Long, an English teacher at Stewardson-Strasburg High School and supporter of the referendum, said the need for the referendum came from the state's fiscal irresponsibility.
"When we were talking to people, the question that kept coming up is 'what about five years from now,' and honestly, I don't know," she said. "The state of Illinois isn't going to finance their responsibility to the schools. It's not what anyone wants to do, but it's what we need to do."
Newcomer Robert Quast was also elected to the Stewardson-Strasburg school board Tuesday with 562 votes. Smith said he looks forward to continuing to work with the board and looked to the challenges it will continue to face.
"I have the utmost confidence in Rob Quast," he said. "I think our biggest challenge is working with the state. We still don't know what degree the state is going to be funding us in regards to transportation, which is super important for us or pensions. There are still lots of financial challenges ahead of us, even with the referendum."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or firstname.lastname@example.org.