School board proposes sales tax increase

Sean McGowan

School District 122’s Board of Education is setting its sights on the Illinois School Facility Tax Public Act.

Randall Toepke, Metamora Township High School superintendent, added to the Dec. 20 school board meeting that a referendum concerning an increase of the town’s sales tax should go on the April 9 ballot for a vote.

Before the board can put the referendum on the ballot, trustees must first agree on the resolution. Toepke said an executive session will likely occur on Jan. 10 in which they will discuss the sales tax, among other items.

The Illinois School Facility Tax Public Act went into effect in October 2007 as a way to fund school facility costs. Such facility costs range from land acquisition, the building of new facilities, ongoing maintenance, architectural planning, energy efficiency, parking lots, life safety and more.

The tax does not cover funding for direct instructional costs, text books, buses, furniture, computers and the like.

“I think there’s 1.7 million that can be dispersed,” Toepke said referring to the fact that the money would be divided between other schools in Woodford County.

If the tax passed, Toepke said Metamora Township High School would see between $240-250,000 per year. The rate of increase would apply to the county’s sales tax. Currently, that tax is 7.25 percent.

The proposed increase of 1 percent would raise that to 8.25 percent. A 7.25 percent sales tax would bring the total of a $100 purchase to $107.25. The total amount with an 8.25 percent sales tax would come out to $108.25.

Tazewell County voters will likely decide whether to approve the same tax hike on their spring ballot, according to the Dec. 20 Peoria Journal Star article “Sales tax hike likely on Tazewell ballots.” Kedric Curtis, Metamora Township High School Board of Education president, said he would like to see this plan move forward as well.

“Looking at this ‘getting to be more local’ control, this seems to be a good idea,” he said.

In addition, the president said the funds would come to the school routinely. The law accords that the money gets distributed to schools on a monthly basis. Only 2 percent of the money made from the sales tax is withheld by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Toepke said he already initiated some support for the tax increase.

“We’ve got a couple of good names in our community that would be willing to do this,” he said.

Toepke added that the average student would get an extra $251 toward his or her education because of the tax. However, the passing of the act will not impose any new tax. Such items that are not taxable under the Illinois School Facility Tax Public Act include cars, trucks, ATVs, boats and RVs; unprepared food and drugs; and farm equipment and farm inputs.

“If it’s not currently taxed, it will not be taxed,” Toepke said.

The most difficult obstacle for the board to overcome in passing the tax increase is the fact that April is right around the corner. Toepke said they would get a late start on rallying the public for its approval. Whereas the law used to require approval from county boards, a 2011 amendment nullified that part of the act.

Many cities in southern and central Illinois tax more on sales than Metamora. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, some of these cities include Champaign, at a rate of 8.75 percent; Decatur, at 9 percent; Galesburg, at 8.5 percent; Marion, 8.25 percent; Peoria at 8.25 percent, and several others.