Six years after a 1 percent sales tax for school facilities failed in Madison County with more than 80 percent of voters saying ‘no,’ the needle of those in favor of such a tax has moved in a substantial fashion.
On April 4, the 1 percent sales tax increase referendum for school facilities in Madison County failed by 259 votes, out of the nearly 44,000 votes cast, according to unofficial results.
According to the Madison County Clerk’s office, 50.29 percent of voters said no, and 49.71 percent of voters said yes.
County Clerk Debbie Ming Mendoza said her office has about 80 mail-in ballots in hand that can still be counted on April 18, and about 200 ballots potentially can still be mailed in.
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“Some were in nursing homes, we know we won’t get all those back,” Mendoza said. “Historically that’s not going to happen.”
Jeff Hewitt, the chairman of the Citizens for Madison County Schools group, which pushed for the passage of the referendum, said the key for his proponents of the tax is to have conversations with residents about the concept of the sales tax for school facilities.
“Voters are becoming more educated on it,” Hewitt said. “I think that’s the key here.”
Hewitt however said there hasn’t been any discussion among school district officials about whether to bring the question back to voters in a future election.
In Edwardsville District 7, which had its own property tax increase referendum on the ballot, which passed by 2,800 votes, a little more than half of the voters in the school district voted in favor of the sales tax, according to a BND analysis.
District 7’s school board did not vote on whether to put the sales tax referendum on the ballot and school officials focused their efforts on the property tax increase instead.
If we do a better job of getting the details our and having conversations, it will pass. I still think it’s a good idea. If there is a desire of getting dependency off of local property taxes for funding schools, this is the only tool to accomplish that.
Jeff Hewitt, chairman of the Citizens of Madison County Schools
The school sales tax proposal did the worst in the Collinsville School District where only 38 percent of voters were favor of the tax increase, according to the analysis; 62 percent of voters said ‘no.’
The Collinsville’s school board narrowly voted against supporting the referendum as they cited the high sales taxes in the city already. The sales tax in the city, which a portion of is in St. Clair County, ranges from 8.1 percent to 9.6 percent, depending on whether a store is in a business district or not, and which county it is located in.
Voters in the Triad School district also were against the sales tax increase by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin. In 2015, voters in Triad did approve a property tax increase to pay for educational purposes.
“We had our recent education fund (increase),” said Hewitt, who also serves as the Triad School Board president. “I think that worked against it.”
Hewitt repeated the sales tax would be able to help reduce property taxes.
“If we do a better job of getting the details our and having conversations, it will pass,” Hewitt said. “I still think it’s a good idea. If there is a desire of getting dependency off of local property taxes for funding schools, this is the only tool to accomplish that.”
In the Highland School District, voters also were against the sales tax increase with 54 percent of voters saying no, according to the BND analysis.
Proportionally, the sales tax referendum did the best in the Venice and Madison school districts. In both of those small districts 65 percent of voters were in favor of increasing the sales tax in order to help pay for school facilities.
Most people are against tax increases at this point in time.
St. Clair County Board Member Fred Boch
A few days ahead of the election, the Madison County Republican Central Committee announced it was against the sales tax increase.
Central committee Chairman Jeremy Plank said he would not be surprised if the question came back and expected the party would be against the sales tax increase again.
“We see that as another loop hole for (school boards) to increase revenues and increase the burden on taxpayers,” Plank said.
He said efforts against the sales tax in 2011 were more involved than they were leading up to the 2017 vote.
“We were more focused on individual races in townships (in 2017),” Plank said. “For as little effort we put in opposing them, and we still beat them, I think that’s still a good sign.”
In St. Clair County, where two sales tax increase proposals, one for public safety and one for school facilities, were rejected, the only area to vote in favor of both was Sugar Loaf Township, which includes the town of Dupo; 51 percent of Sugar Loaf voters were in favor of the public safety sales tax, and 56 percent were in favor of the school sales tax.
June Chartrand, who is the St. Clair County Board member from the Dupo area, said the sales tax increases was a way for Dupo to bring some sales tax dollars spent by residents elsewhere in the county back to the Dupo area that has very few retail establishments.
Dupo’s sales tax rate is 7.35 percent.
Chartrand said the supporters of the school sales tax and the public safety sales tax, as well as a Prairie Dupont Levee District bond referendum, worked together to push the measures through.
“The results showed from that hard work,” Chartrand said. “They worked and went house to house and did their work. When you do that, most of the time, it works well for that issue.”
The results showed from that hard work. They worked and went house to house and did their work. When you do that, most of the time, it works well for that issue.
St. Clair County Board Member June Chartrand
Voters in the Cahokia Fire District, where residents approved a bond referendum to allow the district to buy new fire engines, also were in favor of the public safety sales tax; 50.76 percent of voters said yes, 49.24 percent said no.
However both the Northwest St. Clair County Fire District and the Freeburg Fire District, which also had bond referendums on the ballot, voted against the public safety sales tax increase.
In East St. Louis, where the current sales tax rate reaches 9.85 percent in one area, 56 percent of voters were against the public safety sales tax. However, the race was close when it came to the school facility sales tax: 50.06 percent of voters said ‘yes’ to paying an additional 1 percent for school facility purposes.
In areas such as Belleville, O’Fallon, and Fairview Heights, which have most of the retail sales tax producers in the county, both sales tax measures were rejected, according to the BND analysis.
St. Clair County Board Member Fred Boch, who represents the O’Fallon area, said people have trouble voting for sales tax incraeases if they’re having trouble make ends meet.
“Most people are against tax increases at this point in time,” Boch said.
How areas voted
According to unofficial totals, 50.29 percent of Madison County voters were against a sales tax for school facilities; 49.71 percent of voters said yes. Here’s the break down by school district in Madison County:
Wood River High School
In St. Clair County, a school facilities sales tax failed, as 56.3 percent of voters said no and 43.7 percent of voters said yes. Here’s how some areas voted:
East St. Louis
Freeburg High School District
Mascoutah School District
Voters in St. Clair County rejected the public safety sales tax, with 62 percent of voters saying no and only 38 percent of voters saying yes:
Cahokia Fire District
East St. Louis
Freeburg Fire District
New Athens Township
Northwest St. Clair County Fire District