NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — A Normal Community Unit School District 5 referendum to increase the maximum annual educational tax rate was rejected by voters Tuesday.

16,522 voted for the increased tax rate, but 19,215 voted against it.

The referendum asked to increase the tax rate to $3.60 per $100 of assessed valuation. While it was an initial increase of taxes, over time it would actually save taxpayers’ money.

“By not approving this, unfortunately it’s our students who are going to be most impacted,” said Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle.

Weikle said in 40 years, the district’s tax funding has only increased by 10 cents.

“When you look around, Unit 5 has the lowest education fund rate out of all our neighboring districts and the reason we have the lowest education fund rate is those other districts have supported a referendum in their community,” Weikle said.

Now facing a $12 million deficit with no support from the community; the board might consider larger class sizes, staffing cuts and less extracurricular activities.

“I don’t think that they’ll make any decisions for at least another month or two just because I think they’re going to need to talk with people out in the community,” Weikle said.

Martin Smith is parent has an eight grader and senior in Unit 5 Schools. He voted yes to pass the referendum and is now concerned his children’s extracurricular activities such as music and foreign language will be cut.

“I voted for it. I was hoping it would pass. So, I’m hoping they’ll be able to somehow make up the difference without too many cuts,” said Smith.

The organization Yes For Unit 5 released the following statement after the race was called.

“We knew countering skepticism–about both the dire nature of Unit 5’s financial situation and that property taxes would go down if the referendum was passed–would be an uphill battle. Still, this is a missed opportunity for our community, and it hurts. To all of those who have done so much for this effort, we sincerely thank you. To the kids, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators of Unit 5, we are sorry we couldn’t do more.

“Many who voted “no” will no doubt come to regret it in the months and years ahead. With time, we hope the Unit 5 school board tries again, and that enough voters will realize the seriousness of the situation to make that effort successful. Sadly, the kids impacted in the meantime won’t get that time back.

“Yes for Unit 5 has always solely been about advocating for this referendum and how important it is for our kids’ future. As community members, we stand ready to advocate for our public school whenever we can.”

Unit 5 Board President Barry Hitchins released the following statement Wednesday.

“Obviously the Board is disappointed with the outcome of this vote. While we didn’t get the result we would have liked, we would still like to thank members of the Illinois Education Association, local trades and labor unions, the Yes for Unit 5 committee, and especially Dr. Weikle and her administrative team for their effort in telling Unit 5’s story and getting our message out. The Board will take some time to digest these results, have conversations with some key stakeholders and those involved in the referendum effort; and work to determine our path forward.”