MORTON — If Tazewell County voters approve a 1 percent school facilities sales tax in November, the Morton School District will have to determine how to best use an estimated $2 million in new annual revenue.
Superintendent Jeff Hill gave the School Board preliminary options on Tuesday, based on assumptions including a $70 million building project or major renovations in 15 years that would be paid off over the following decade — and no changes in operations or personnel over the entire 25-year period.
First, the sales tax must get on the Nov. 6 ballot. That would happen if school boards representing at least 51 percent of Tazewell County's public school students pass resolutions by Aug. 20. The Morton board is expected to vote on a resolution Aug. 7.
Facilities sales tax revenue can pay for new buildings or be saved for future projects, or pay off bonds that already have been issued for construction — or any combination of the three qualified uses. The third option, however, could reduce property taxes of residents in the district.
Morton board members at a special meeting Tuesday said they want to reduce property taxes, which could be accomplished by a variety of means. The board could maintain the district's annual tax levy instead of increasing it by the consumer price index, as allowed by tax caps, or simply reduce the levy by a specific amount.
"I don't want to stockpile money for facilities work — not when we have an opportunity to help our taxpayers," said board member Shad Beaty.
Board member Kevin Austin said he doesn't want district taxpayers to view the school facilities sales tax as just another tax they have to pay.
"We have an opportunity to increase the funds we have for facilities work while at the same time easing our taxpayers' burden, keeping money in their pocket," he said.
Of course, the board's discussion Tuesday would become moot if Tazewell County voters don't approve the sales tax.
"I've heard a lot about the school facilities sales tax over the years but I'm just starting to understand now how it can be used," Beaty said. "That's why it would be very important to educate our taxpayers about it if it's on the ballot. A lot of education would be needed."
Under Hill's assumptions, maintaining the district's tax levy rather than increasing it by the consumer price index for one year would reduce the district's potential revenue by nearly $700,000 that year.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.