School Administrators Present 1% Sales Tax Info to Select Group
West Carroll residents Ron and Freddie Preston listen to discussion during the Sales Tax meeting.
By LYNNETTE FORTH | For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – A group of selected community members were invited to attend a preliminary video presentation put together by local school Superintendents, which provided information on the proposed Carroll County Schools Facility Sales Tax on January 13th in the West Carroll Middle School Band room.
Eastland Superintendent Mark Hanson, Chadwick/Milledgeville Superintendent Tim Shurman, along with West Carroll Superintendent Craig Mathers each selected 20 community members for the first viewing of a presentation that they constructed about the Sales Tax Incentive.
Mark Hanson began, saying “Thank you all for coming. This is the first time we have done this presentation. We just want feedback to tell us if the information provided is good.”
Those in attendance learned that certain items will not be taxed with the program including groceries, medication, cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, farm equipment/parts, implements, and boats.
“This program would bring in revenue from new sources. It lowers property taxes, and provides better education,” Hanson continued. All revenue would be used for maintenance, building, and improving schools. Revenue would not go to salaries, administration, and operating costs.
Each Superintendent presented a list of improvements and updates that need to be made in each of their respective buildings. Most of the improvements consisted of Life Safety items (accessibility), Repairing and/or updating HVAC systems, remodeling classrooms, updating wiring, painting, plumbing, security systems, roofing issues, boiler repairs, installing energy efficient windows, upgrading locker rooms, fix thermostats, and fire doors. Mathers mentioned that in one building at West Carroll they have to decide whether to run computers, or turn on the air conditioning, or cool the water fountain.
Mount Carroll resident Pete Smith said he loved living in Carroll County, and that a sales tax will help the county to compete, because schools are what bring people to the area.
(PA photo/L. Forth)
The presentation showed that property taxes in Iowa are lower due to tax incentives.
“All three boards of education have voted to have this issue on the ballot,” Hanson advised. “Why do Districts need new revenue? Because of reductions. We are receiving less money than we are accustomed to. School mandates are continuing to increase. Good things are being required, but at the same time, funding is being reduced.”
Mathers informed those in attendance that the West Carroll District reduced its number of employees from 265 to 185 to help with costs. Mathers also stated that the Education Fund, Facilities Fund, and the Transportation funds have all been affected by the recession.
Superintendents agreed that it is difficult to attract families to move into the area and enroll students into the Districts with outdated facilities. Current classrooms lack proper air exchange and climate control. Twelve counties in Illinois currently have the 1% tax incentive.
Mathers spoke about recent surveys sent out to parents stating, “We got 257 surveys back. The answers varied drastically. Middle School parents wanted the asbestos in the High School fixed. 89% at the High School level wanted taxes reduced. All agreed that the buildings need to be made as secure as possible.”
An estimate from the Department of Revenue showed that the West Carroll District could potentially gain $589,184 annually as a result of the 1% sales tax.
“It captures revenue from those who spend money in the county,” Hanson stated. “Because revenue is targeted to specific expenditures, it will have a stimulative effect. We asked all of you here to give us feedback. What questions or concerns did we not answer? Is there anything confusing or wrong with the presentation? Would you feel comfortable stating your opinion (in favor, not in favor, or undecided), and would you be on a steering committee?”
Mathers stated, “It makes a lot of sense in my world. The Thomson prison is opening in October of 2015 with 1100 people coming in. It will help support our schools.”
Audience and PTO member Teresa Duggan of Thomson replied, “As a parent you need to educate people that the more they spend in our county, it will come back to our schools. The beauty of sales tax is that we pay everywhere else, and therefore are providing for other towns, if we shop there.”
School board member Bev Kilpatrick stated, “In the West Carroll District, we have a little bit of JoDaviess County, where they have the program. We get half of that money just from having just three of those kids.”
One Lanark resident added, “It’s important that the audience knows what the reserves are for. They can deteriorate very quickly.”
Mathers replied “It does not have the word education in it on the ballot.” Hanson responded “No matter how you say it, people hear reduction in tax. A lot of taxes are going up right now. The Districts get less money, but taxes go up.”
Freddie Preston of Savanna stated “It might be two or three years before it happens.”
A Chadwick/Milledgeville resident commented, “We need money to improve our communities. People are coming into town and looking at the schools and base their moving in on how the schools look.”
Audience members agreed that the message in the presentation states that taxes are going to go down, the video is Iowa based, and not relevant to Carroll County. Pete Smith said, “The video still shows a success story. This is what these areas have been able to do.”
Those in attendance agreed that the presentation should show more about Carroll County, and also state the long term goals of each District. One resident stated, “When you talk about keeping open buildings from the 1950’s, is that our wisest move? When I look at raising money, I want it to go to a purpose that makes sense. Putting money into an eighty year old building just doesn’t make sense.”
In closing, Mathers added, “If this passes, money received could allow us to sell some building bonds, and save operation costs. We could put on a nice addition and still have money.”
Duggan added, “The big thing for West Carroll is that the town people are not looking at the big picture. People are seeing through tunnel vision. We have to get people to understand the purpose of the goal.”