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MOMENCE — A referendum that would have relaxed residency restrictions for school board members in Momence fell five votes short of passing Tuesday.

Voters also turned down the measure during the November 2020 election, when the same referendum fell two votes short of passing.

The referendum has failed several times in past years as well, including as far back as 1996.

Approximately 64.7 percent of overall votes were in favor of the referendum in Tuesday’s election. It needed 66 percent to pass.

A simple majority vote of over 50 percent in each township also would have done the trick.

In total, there were 233 “yes” votes and 127 “no” votes.

The referendum asked voters to allow members of the Momence CUSD1 School Board to be elected at-large and without restriction by area of residence within the school district.

In other words, any resident within the school district’s boundaries could run for any open board seat without restrictions to the number of members coming from the different townships and fractional areas.

Board President Sandra Illum said the board has been one member short for over a year and working with six members instead of seven since a previous member decided not to run for re-election.

No candidates have emerged to attempt to fill the open board seat, which under current regulations must be filled by a resident of a fractional area within the school district, she said.

“It’s a very small population of people to pull from,” Illum said.

With only six members, an issue could potentially divide board votes 50/50, she noted.

“We’re still doing our normal business as we can,” she said. “We would just like to have a full board.”

The regulations also mean top vote getters are not necessarily the ones elected, and an interested candidate may be ineligible to run because of where they live within the school district.

Illum said the board attempted to clarify what the referendum was asking for with the public because it failed by such a slim margin last time.

“People might think we’re asking for money [with the referendum], which we’re not,” she said.

Illum said that while she was disappointed the referendum still did not pass, the board would continue to function as usual and contact the regional office of education about possible next steps toward getting a full board.

“It’s kind of one of those thankless jobs,” she added. “I did it because I wanted to have a say in my children’s education.”

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.