Neoga voters reject tax hike for school district

Stan Polanski photoKen Vondrak turns in his ballot at the city building in Neoga Tuesday afternoon. Attendant Doris McKay, pictured next to Vondrak, said that Neoga had “a tremendous turnout.”

NEOGA — The $800,000 tax increase to help Neoga’s ailing school district was rejected by Neoga voters Tuesday by a wide margin, according to unofficial results.

With district voters in Cumberland, Coles and Shelby counties, about 68 percent of the votes were against the referendum.

Since February, the tax increase has been a heated issue in the community. The Neoga Community Alliance told residents that without passage of the referendum the district might not survive as a standalone district. Another group, the Neoga Property Owner’s Alliance, presented a skeptical view of the proposal.

A couple weeks ago, the board approved about $487,320 worth of cuts for the next school year. Interim Superintendent Beth Pressler was hoping for $600,000 in cuts. 

School officials will possibly have to find more cuts without the tax increase, Carl Miller, leader of the Neoga Property Owner’s Alliance, said Tuesday night after the votes were counted.

He said voters made the right decision Tuesday. 

“Once people got the details, they came to the same conclusion,” Miller said.

Travis Gresens was one of the voters who didn’t come to that conclusion. He voted ‘yes’ to the refer­endum.

“It’s such an important issue right now to make sure the schools get an additional revenue stream because the state has been pulling back funding,” Gressens said after voting. “I came out today mainly to support the school refer­endum.”

An official with the The Neoga Community Alli­ance declined comment Tuesday night.

Miller said that if the district still needs a referendum next year, it would be more legitimate to voters. He has stated previously that voters were blindsided by this year’s referendum and that more research should have been done before the referendum’s amount was chosen.

It’s crunch time for the district.

“Now the hard work will begin,” Miller said.

Stan Polanski can be reached at stan.polanski@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext.131.

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