SALEM — Voters in Marion County will have to decide on Nov. 4 whether to implement a 1 percent sales tax increase that would be used for school facilities within the county.

Keri Garrett, regional superintendent for Marion, Clinton and Washington counties, said a new state statute allows the county to ask voters to increase the county’s sales tax up to a maximum of 1 percent for schools within the county.

If passed, the tax would be assessed on the sale of nonfood items, excluding prescriptions and large-ticket items, such as vehicles. The revenue from the tax will then be divided among the county’s school districts, allowing them to use the funds for updating facilities.

According to Garrett, school districts can utilize the tax revenue to deal with required disability accessibility or security issues, such as cameras, or other needed updates to school buildings.

In addition, the revenue from the tax may be used by a school district to help retire debt for capital improvements, along with actually building new schools or building additions.

Garret, however, is concerned the area’s financial situation may inhibit voters from approving the referendum.

“The job market, the money market is not good to present the referendum now,” she said.

If voters do approve the sales tax hike, there is still a hurdle to jump before schools can benefit, said Garrett, who added the Marion County Board would have to approve the tax hike before it can be implemented.

The issue is on the ballot in several other counties, but Marion is the only area county to try to get the issue passed.

“It’s a fairly new piece of legislation,” Garrett said, saying the General Assembly decided to let the state’s counties decide whether to seek the additional tax as an alternative way for school districts to raise money, other than seek bond issues.

Judy Cole, South Central school district superintendent, did not want to comment on her perspectives on the referendum, saying she was not legally allowed to do so.


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