With two sales tax referenda on the April ballot in St. Clair County, one that would benefit school facilities and one that would help boost public safety, officials representing both types of entities have formed a committee to work together to promote both causes.
A group of more than 30 St. Clair County school superintendents, law enforcement officials and probation officials met Wednesday with the Belleville News-Democrat Editorial Board and are among the people who spoke about the “Yes for Safety, Yes for Kids, Yes for our Future” Committee.
Voters in April will decide whether a 1 percent sales tax is added for school facility purposes, and whether a 1 percent sales tax is added for public safety purposes.
Neither sales tax would apply to groceries, medications nor titled vehicles.
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Each tax, if passed, is expected to bring in $22 million. Schools districts in the county would split $22 million based on student population and would be used for school facility purposes.
The $22 million a year for public safety needs would go toward several items, such as $6 million a year to expand the jail, $5 million a year being split among county municipalities based on population, and installing a countywide emergency alert system, among many other things.
The public safety sales tax would sunset after 12 years.
You have to fight crime and invest in our children.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said the coalition is meant to promote both public safety and the schools referenda.
“There are law enforcement and education folks here,” Kelly said. “You have to fight crime and invest in our children.”
“We’re working together,” Kelly added.
The committee has started a Facebook page. So far only aspects of the public safety referendum are on the ballot, but aspects of the school referendum will be added, Kelly said. Video testimonials also are expected to be added to the page.
“This is an investment in our future,” Kelley said.
Many school superintendents have said they would use the money to pay off existing debt instead of using property taxes to pay those costs.
St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Tom Knapp said money from the sales tax would go to only bolstering public safety.
“The money won’t and can’t go to the airport, to the County Board,” Knapp said. “It can’t go to the boogey man in the closet.”
This is a quality of life issue for all of us.
Smithton School District 130 Superintendent Susan Homes
Susan Homes, superintendent of Smithton School District 130, said the state being late on payments has put school districts in the position of asking for more money locally.
She added people who work in schools rely on safe areas.
“This is a quality of life issue for all of us,” Homes said.
Arthur Culver, superintendent of District 189 in East St. Louis, said his district has $47 million in facilities needs the school sales tax would help pay for. He added public safety and crime is a concern in his city, and can affect students.
“We don’t have enough officers in East St. Louis,” Culver said. “We need a broad base of support.”