Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Madison County school boards pave way for sales tax referendum on April 4 ballot

By Chandra Lye | Jan 24, 2017

Madison County voters will decide a proposed sales tax increase in the April 4 election that proponents say will give schools more revenue to pay for school construction costs if it passes. 

Regional Superintendent of Schools Robert Daiber said districts that recently passed resolutions were Roxana, Triad, Highland, Bethalto, Granite City, Alton, Madison and East Alton districts 13 and 14.

“Sixty-three point five percent of the student population’s districts passed resolutions to put it on the ballot,” Daiber said.

County Clerk Mark von Nida has until Jan. 26 to certify the question to appear on the ballot.

“Most likely yes, it is going to be on the ballot,” Daiber said. 

He also said that Wood River Hartford District 15 will be passing the resolution despite not having done so before a Jan. 17 deadline. Only Collinsville voted the resolution down 4-2. Edwardsville and Venice school districts did not vote on the issue.

“They have done what they needed to do to submit it,” Daiber said of the districts. “I would highly encourage them, if they want it to pass, to campaign.”

The proposed 1 percent sales tax would be imposed on consumer goods, many of which are purchased by those outside the county, Daiber earlier told the Record.

“A good percentage of revenue that is generated from this is not paid by Madison County taxpayers," he said. "It is paid for by individuals passing through that may be buying things at interstate marts."

A proposed sales tax increase was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in Madison County in 2011, but Daiber said he believed things may be different this year.

“I think that maybe there is a more sincere need for it, maybe viewed by the public because of the current issues and funding education by the state," he said.

“I think the general public is aware of the issues of funding of education because of the amount of media attention that has been given to it,” he said, adding that he was aware of the concern over property taxes.

“This is a source of revenue that could lower property taxes.”

Daiber also noted that six new schools had just opened in 2011, which may have led residents to believe there was no need of a sales tax.

“Unfortunately to those districts who didn’t have bond issues that were successful for construction they are in greater need right now for facility maintenance,” he said.

However, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler has made it clear that he is against the tax in a post on his social media site in which he discussed how the referendum to lower the tax levy for the Madison County government “was approved by the voters by a margin of 4 to 1.”

“The Democrats and AFSCME government employees' union challenged the petitions, but we survived the challenge, because we simply had the necessary signatures,” Prenzler wrote.

Prenzler said that the "real" reason for the proposed sales tax increase was to create a new stream of taxes, between $20-23 million per year. He said that would allow investment bankers to issue more than $300 million of bonds, which would put taxpayers "deep in long term debt."

Yet, Daiber said that things are much different on the financial front for the county.

“There has been an almost $2 million growth in sales tax revenue from 2011 when the initiative was put forth to today,” he said.

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