Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 15, 2013

Unit 40 to vote on proposed tax Monday

If approved, sales tax proposal to make March 18 ballot

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — After months of consideration and conversation at school boards throughout Effingham County, it's time for a vote at tonight's Unit 40 School Board meeting to place a proposed sales tax increase on the upcoming election ballot.

If approved, the issue of increasing sales tax in Effingham County while simultaneously abating property taxes will appear on the March 18 ballot. School board members have indicated in the past that they will approve the issue. They vote to bring the issue before taxpayers because Unit 40 has just over 50 percent of the students in the county.

The proposed tax increase to boost revenue for the district has had its share of proponents and detractors since its proposal. Superintendent Mark Doan has outlined the district's need to deal with a $1.7 million loss in general state aid over the last three  years and the need to consolidate six buildings in the district to three. That plan would include either a total renovation of Effingham Junior High or the construction of a new building. Additionally, Doan has said the tax swap is preferable because it will result in a several hundred dollar decrease per household in property taxes throughout the county, along with the fact that 54 percent of sales taxes are paid by out-of-county consumers.

Detractors of the issue have pointed out that the tax mainly affects Effingham residents due to 88 percent of sales tax revenue coming from Effingham city businesses while pointing out  that approximately half of the money generated from the proposed increase would go to other school districts in the county.

At a recent city council meeting, Commissioner Brian Milleville called the tax a "redistribution of wealth," along with contending that property taxes might be raised throughout the area at some point again due to the state's obligation to fund pensions being passed on to local school districts.

Doan has regularly contended that if there wasn't a need from the diminishing state aid and the rising cost of keeping six buildings in operation, this wouldn't be brought to the table. To continue the level of education in the county, he has said this must happen.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at the administration office on Banker St. If approved, the proposal will appear on the March 18 Primary ballot.

Other items on the agenda for the board to consider are approval of a Unit 40 Foundation Director, disposal of district property and an update on financial software search and a warehouse freezer for the district.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.