The Effingham Board of Education voted unanimously to put a 1% facilities sales tax on the April Consolidated Election ballot Monday night. Voters will decide on the tax then. The vote comes amid area schools struggling to find long-term funding solutions to deal with aging infrastructure. Three other districts also voted on the tax Monday as well.
“Sooner or later we have to deal with our issues with our buildings,” said Unit #40 Superintendent Mark Doan. According to him 1% sales tax is the “least intrusive” method to raise additional funds to help offset the cost of infrastructure. The building that needs the most renovation is the 90-year-old junior high. The district is already updating the roof on the building, but upgrades are needed in the building’s electrical, pluming, and HVAC. Doan’s concern is how those issues can be addressed without too much burden on taxpayers.
“We could sell health/life/safety bonds,” Doan said. “That’s a direct increase to property tax owners.” Doan suggested that the facilities tax is a preferable option because it shares the tax burden with anyone who makes purchases in Effingham County. Additionally revenue from the tax is restricted to uses that improve district infrastructure.
Superintendent Doan discusses district needs.
Owner of Take 5 Vintage, Brian Milleville, opposed putting the tax on the ballot. “We’ve been down this road before,” Milleville said. “The voters rejected this by an almost three to one margin.” According to him, the tax would place an unfair burden on Effingham, that surrounding districts would benefit from. “The money that is generated from this [tax]. Unit#40 gets to keep about 53% of it. The rest of it doesn’t even go to Effingham,” Milleville stated. “So literally, it’s a tax on the City of Effingham to be redistributed to the rest of county.”
Doan predicts that revenue from the tax for Unit #40 would be around $2.8-million, allowing the district to bond, at no additional taxpayer expense, $29-million with a 20 year note or $36-million on a 30 year note.
Brian Milleville express concerns with the tax..
Other area counties have passed similar measures, including Coles and Shelby. One of the organizers of the Coles County Campaign to pass the measure, Matt Titus, attended Monday’s meeting. He said that getting the referendum passed is necessary due to the state dropping the ball when it comes to funding education. “For as hard as things have been in the last five, or six, years we know that it’s not going to get easier after the next budget negotiation” Titus said. According to him getting the tax referendum passed is a matter of reaching out to the community.
Another topic of discussion was how the board would make use of the tax, if it were approved. Doan laid out three options. One option would be remodeling the junior high and building an addition to Central School for around $32.7.million. Option two is to construct a new elementary school, with the junior high moving to Central for around $53.2-million. Option three is building a new junior high entirely, and upgrading Central, for around $49.2-million. The board is still in discussion about these options.