On Tuesday, St. Clair County voters will decide whether to support a 1 percent sales tax increase for school facilities and a 1 percent sales tax increase for public safety. The proposals come alongside a variety of other issues on the ballot.
The Belleville News-Democrat prepared a five-part series examining how the proposed tax increases will affect residents and the services they use. Here is a recap of those five stories with links to the full articles.
One of the proposed 1 percent increases would be used toward enhancing law enforcement and firefighting capabilities; it would end after 12 years. The other 1 percent hike would generate new revenue for schools in the county to use toward their facilities, as well as debt on past construction. If both referendums pass, the sales tax rate would increase by 2 percentage points in a county where the rates on general merchandise now range from 6.6 to 9.85 percent.
Voters in both St. Clair and Madison counties will decide in the April 4 election whether they want to impose the countywide increases to generate new revenue for schools to use toward their facilities. Smithton School District 130, for example, would use money from a proposed 1 percent sales tax hike in St. Clair County to address its space and safety concerns, according to Superintendent Susan Homes.
St. Clair County is seeking a hike in the sales tax to pay for a jail expansion and renovation, among other things. If approved, the sales tax is expected to bring in about $22 million a year into the county, of which $6 million would be set aside for jail improvements.
During a recent sheriff’s department shift, there were only four deputies and two supervisors covering the unincorporated areas of St. Clair County. The proposed 1 percent sales tax on general merchandise would generate an estimated $22 million a year, and $5.6 million is allocated for additional sheriff department personnel.
Next month’s election won’t be the first time voters have seen sales tax referendums for schools and public safety on ballots in the metro-east. In 2011, Madison County voters rejected a 1-cent sales tax increase that would have generated new revenue for school facilities; it failed by a more than 4-to-1 margin. In 2014, a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for jail upgrades in St. Clair County failed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.