By MIKE JAMES
WESTWOOD — Voters approved a utilities tax in the Fairview school district Tuesday in what Superintendent Bill Musick called “the biggest upset in political history since 1948, when Harry Truman beat Dewey.”
Unofficial totals show there were 549 votes in favor of keeping the tax, and 512 to repeal it; the result was unexpected in a community where two previous attempts to enact a utilities tax were defeated at the polls.
Musick was referring to the famous photograph of a jubilant Harry Truman holding the Chicago Tribune with the banner headline erroneously blaring “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” the day after winning the presidency.
The district says it wanted the tax to refurbish schools.
The election was scheduled after opponents of the tax circulated petitions. In fact, opponents circulated petitions twice, once in early January and again earlier this month. The second petition, with somewhat different wording, was the result of a compromise between opponents and the school board after the board challenged the first one in court.
On the most recent petition, the county clerk’s office verified 313 signatures, which was more than twice as many as required under state regulations.
The tax issue has followed a winding path to the polls. Enacted by the school board in late December, the levy would collect 3 percent on all utility bills in the district, including electric, gas, water, sewer, telephone, cell phone and cable. It would cost the average citizen about $20 a month.