District 150 approves of school facility sales tax

By Joe Bennett

District 150 approves of school facility sales tax

March 11, 2013 Updated Mar 11, 2013 at 10:30 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- District 150 is joining other Peoria County school boards in approving a school facility sales tax.

That means the tax increase will be on the ballot in the 2014 general election and Peoria County voters will ultimately decide.

If voters approve of the tax increase next year, the school facility sales tax would add a one percent tax increase to some retail sales in Peoria County.

"All we've been able to do is put the burden on property owners,” says board member Debbie Wolfmeyer. “And I like the idea that we can get beyond that and include other residents."

Supporters of the tax say it would take pressure off of property taxes, which District 150 Treasurer Dr. Dave Kinney says will have decreased by nearly $4,000,000 come 2014.

The sales tax could not be collected on items like groceries, medicine, auto sales or farm equipment.

Any revenue from the tax must be spent on facility costs, such as renovations, architectural planning, or parking lots.

Kinney says another option would be paying off existing debt previously approved by voters in the school district.

"It allows the district, should they get to where they need to be on facilities, they can actually abate some of the bond and interest fund and actually lower property taxes with it," according to Kinney.

Both the District 150 school board and the Peoria Federation of Teachers approve of the idea.

"The state is not helping us,” says board Vice President Rick Cloyd. “And the forecast for federal funding for Illinois schools is not going to go up./ And the city is taking more money every year with TIF districts"

"That would basically not give us any of the money here for the kids in Peoria,” says Peoria Federation of Teachers President Bob Darling. “So if we don't do it, I don't know who's going to do it."

The tax revenue would be divided amongst districts by student, giving 49 percent to District 150.

Officials say that could bring an estimated $9,000,000 annually.