EFFINGHAM — Effingham County voters resoundingly rejected a proposal that would have raised the county's sales tax 1 percent to pay for school building improvements.
In a primary election with unusually high voter turnout, 5,876 voters, or 72.8 percent, opted against the so-called "tax swap" initiative, while only 2,195, or 27.20 percent, favored the increase.
Conservative activist Brian Milleville said late Tuesday night county taxpayers saw through the promises made by area school boards to lower property taxes if the measure passed.
"I think the taxpayers of Effingham have had enough of federal and state tax increases," Milleville said. "This didn't make any sense.
"We were asked to give a blank check to school administrators," Milleville added. "It made perfect sense to reject it."
Effingham Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said the failure of the initiative doesn't take away school facility needs within his district.
"Our long-term goal is to get to three buildings," Doan said. "This (failure of the initiative) puts a large wrench in this.
"We know we have to be more efficient as a school district," Doan added. "Our financial issues are not going to go away.
"And, our building issues are still out there."
Doan has said he would like to close half of the six Unit 40 buildings in the next few years. He denied, however, that failure of Tuesday's initiative meant he would ask his board for an increase in the property tax rate.
"We will continue to deal with issues as they come up," he said.
Doan noted state inspectors would be making their health-life-safety inspection next year. Some of those inspections lead to expensive facility improvements.
"We don't know how that's going to play out," he said.
Doan said he didn't think proponents would try to get another sales tax initiative on the ballot in the near future.
"It's something we won't talk about for awhile," he said.
Overall, 8,374 votes were cast within Effingham County in Tuesday's election. Of those votes, 86.28 percent were Republican.
The turnout of 37.11 percent was well above the 2010 primary total of 25 percent, County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel said.