It appears Tazewell County voters will decide the fate of a 1 percent school facilities sales tax on the April 9 ballot.
“Based on my calculations, I believe school boards representing more than 51 percent of the county’s students have voted to put the sales tax on the ballot, and that’s the threshold,” Superintendent Lindsey Hall said Dec. 11 to the District 709 School Board.
The board decided to vote on a sales tax resolution at its next meeting Jan. 15.
Hall gave a detailed report on how sales tax money could be used in the district.
She introduced a long-range plan of an estimated $14 million in prioritized capital improvements, maintenance projects and health life safety work spread over five years.
The big ticket item is a $2.25 million hot water heating system for Morton High School that would replace the aging, deteriorating steam heating system in place now.
There’s also a $1.335 million project for improvements at the high school’s sports complex including new bleachers, lights and a turf field at Carper Field.
Hall told the board that voting to place the sales tax on the ballot “does not mean you’re endorsing it. You’re just putting it in the hands of the voters.”
Board member Tim Taylor said he’s comfortable placing the sales tax on the ballot because “it allows taxpayers to decide if they’re going to pay an extra tax. However, this is a tax that won’t go away, so we have to keep that in mind.”
If the sales tax passes, District 709 would receive an estimated $1.5 million annually in revenue.
In addition to paying for projects, districts can use sales tax revenue to reduce property taxes used to pay for facilities work.
The sales tax failed in Tazewell County in 2009. The District 709 School Board did not vote then on a resolution to put the issue on the ballot.
“We took a neutral position at the time because we didn’t have a long-range facilities plan. Now we have one,” said board President Tom Neeley.
Also Dec. 11, board members:
• Were given the 29 recommendations developed by the 709Connect community engagement coordinating committee, and were told Hall will report Jan. 15 on implementation.
• Approved a 2012 property tax levy of $24.5 million, an increase of nearly $1 million from the 2011 levy of $23.6 million. Homeowners will see a 3 percent increase in their tax bills, the most allowed in 2012 under the tax caps.