Voters to decide on sales tax increase that would help county schools

By Audrey Williams

March 27, 2013 Updated Mar 28, 2013 at 9:29 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- Voters in seven area counties will have a proposal on their April 9 ballot asking for a one-percent schools facility sales tax. Those counties include Tazewell, Woodford, Fulton, Marshall, LaSalle, Henry and Livingston.

If the county schools facility tax is approved, sales tax would increase by one-percent on qualifying purchases. It excludes groceries, medicine, vehicles and farm equipment. That money, in turn, would go to schools in that county to help with building and facility expenses.

"That includes new buildings, renovations, improvements in energy efficiency, improvements in safety and security," said Morton Dist. 709 Superintendent Dr. Lindsey Hall.

Dr. Hall said the money would be divided among county school districts, based on student population. For Morton schools that would mean about 13-percent of the estimated $12 million of revenue or about $1.6 million per year. With pension uncertainty and weak economy, Dr. Hall sees this as another viable option for schools.

"I think that we're seeing a desire to look at alternative revenue sources because districts cannot rely on the State of Illinois to appropriately fund schools. We're also, collectively, very concerned about the burden that is being shifted to our property tax payers," she said.

Knox County approved the facility tax in November of 2010.

Knoxville School Superintendent Steve Wilder said they get about $600,000 a year and they plan to use that money to build a brand new high school.

Wilder said about one-third of the $31 million high school will be paid for through that tax. The new building is expected to be completed in Fall of 2014 and Wilder doesn't believe it would be possible without the new sales tax revenue.

"We would have had to gone to the taxpayers and ask them to pay more to build that new high school and in the current economic climate, I don't think that would have happened," he said.

If approved in Tazewell County, Dr. Hall said first the Morton school district would like to offer some property tax relief. After that, they already have a lengthy list of projects.

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