Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 18, 2014

Third time a charm for Shelby sales tax initiative

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

SHELBYVILLE — On its third appearance on the Shelby County ballot, voters overwhelmingly approved the school facility sales tax, which will put money into school districts' pockets for building maintenance.

The Shelby County school facility sales tax passed with 3,491 "yes" votes to  2,356 "no" votes. The vote passed by nearly 20 percentage points, while a similar tax was voted down Tuesday in both Coles and Effingham counties.

Stewardson-Strasburg Superintendent Michele Lindenmeyer said a push from all Shelby County school districts, particularly from Shelbyville, brought information into the community which could have swayed the vote.

"We got the facts out there to our voters and I like to think once they knew what was at stake and how important it was for our schools and our communities, they did the right thing," she said.

Lindenmeyer said the sales tax will be a massive help for schools that are still suffering from high state aid proration and can help fill the growing cracks in the district's budget.

"It's

lifesavers for our schools and lifesavers for our communities," she said. "For a

lot of the bigger communities, the schools are just a piece of their

communities but for us, they're the heart. This helps to solidify some long-term existence

for us. It gives us another revenue stream."

The tax can only be used for school facility needs or property tax abatement. It cannot be used for expenditures, such as teacher salaries.

Carl Miller, of rural Shelbyville, who was an opponent of the tax, said if the opponents of the tax would have been better prepared, they may have been able to vote it down.

"It

didn't get on the radar as soon as we needed to respond to it," he said. "You

look at Effingham and Mattoon, and they dumped theirs."

Miller said he is afraid passing the facility sales tax in Shelby County would open the door to other similar tax measures appearing on the ballot.

Still, Lindenmeyer said the approval of the voters was an impressive show of support for the local school districts.

"Being

able to pass this overwhelmingly shows that they're behind us, and

we're going to find other ways to make this situation work," she said.

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, at jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com or via Twitter @EDNJAdams.