District 709 School Board members on Jan. 15 unanimously approved a resolution to place a 1 percent Tazewell County school facilities sales tax on the April 9 ballot.

Superintendent Lindsey Hall said after the vote the board became the 18th of the 20 school boards in the county to approve a resolution.
School boards representing at least 51 percent of the county’s students already had approved a resolution, so the sales tax issue was going to be on the ballot regardless of District 709’s vote.

But that didn’t stop the board from engaging in a spirited discussion about the sales tax.

Board member Tim Taylor made a motion to put off the vote, but his motion died for lack of support.

He wanted the district to provide voters with information about what is and is not taxed, legal uses for the revenue, and what the district plans to do with the money, an estimated $1.5 million annually, before voting on a resolution.

“We’d better get that information out quickly now before the void is filled,” Taylor said after the vote.

Groceries, prescription medications and licensed vehicles are among the items that would not be taxed. Revenue can be used only for facilities work and to reduce facilities-related property taxes.

Hall said she’ll make a presentation to the board Feb. 5 on possible uses for sales tax funds.

“Money can be used to improve safety and security in our buildings,” she said, using as an example installing keyless entry systems.

Earlier in the meeting, Hall suggested the district form a facilities advisory committee of administrators, staff members, district architects and residents in response to a recommendation that came out of the 709Connect community engagement program.

Hall also suggested launching an in-depth study of the implementation of all-day kindergarten, another 709Connect recommendation.

Taylor said input from the advisory committee and all-day kindergarten study group should be part of the sales tax information the district provides to voters.

Also on Jan. 15, board members:

• Learned cameras and buzz-in systems will be installed in the front entrances at Morton High School, Lettie Brown Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School. Morton Junior High School, Grundy Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School already have these systems.

• Learned a pilot program of using biodegradable instead of Styrofoam food trays will be tried out at the junior high school for the rest of the school year as the result of a suggestion made by a class.