To the Editor:
Madison County Citizens for Sustainable Education is a group of grassroots volunteers working to educate voters on the details of the proposed 1 percent sales tax, and its impact on residents and local businesses.
The same sales tax was defeated by voters in Madison County in 2017, and soundly defeated by a margin of 81% to 19% by voters on the 2011 ballot. Nothing has changed from the original proposal that voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2011.
This is still a tax that adds to the crushing tax burden that we face here in Illinois, which now has the highest combined state and local taxes in the nation.
The state legislature raised our income taxes by 32 percent last summer, and now we are confronted with yet another local tax. At what point do we say enough is enough.
If voters approve the sales tax on the March 20 ballot, areas of Madison County would have some of the highest sales tax rates in the nation. The sales tax in Granite City’s Bellemore Village business district would rise to 10.35 percent, surpassing Chicago and Long Beach, CA, which at 10.25 percent have the highest sales tax rate in America.
In all seven of Collinsville’s business districts the sales tax rate would rise to 10.1 percent.
What signal are we sending to businesses and consumers, when we already have some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and now we’re aiming to have the highest sales taxes in the country as well? Gas prices and sales taxes are already less in Missouri, and this would just increase the disparity.
Since Madison County sits on the state border, it makes our businesses even more vulnerable to people crossing state lines for lower prices.
Many local school districts have also promised to use a portion of the estimated $23 million in revenue from the tax to lower property taxes. However, nothing in the law requires school districts to lower property taxes with the revenue, and there are no provisions to hold school boards to their promises.
In fact, in 2009, when the 1 percent sales tax was on the ballot in Champaign County, all 13 school districts in the county promised to lower property taxes with a portion of the revenue. However, five years later, 12 of the 13 school districts had broken their promises and had actually raised property taxes by an average of 22 percent.
There are just no examples around the state of school districts following through on the promise to lower property taxes if this new sales tax is passed.
Most school districts around the state have issued bonds to pay for school construction and have used the sales tax revenues to pay down the bonds. However, if sales tax revenues are insufficient to make minimum bond payments, the school districts are required to raise property taxes.
So, if we fall into another recession, and sales tax revenues are down and there isn’t enough money to make their minimum bond payments, our property taxes will actually go up, as required by state law. That’s why we have to read through the fine print and put the claims of "lower property taxes" into proper context. It’s laughable that someone would claim that they need to raise our taxes in order to lower them. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Finally, if the sales tax is passed, it never expires and voters cannot repeal it.
As we look at the pitfalls of this oppressive tax, it is also important to follow the money. In 2011 and 2017, the attempts to pass this tax were heavily funded by out of state and out of Madison County investment bankers, architectural, and construction companies who would profit greatly from this measure. They, not the taxpayers, would be big winners if this tax is passed.
Nancy Moss, spokesperson for Madison County Citizens for Sustainable Education