Metro-East News

Madison County GOP comes out against school sales tax increase

The Madison County Republican Party has come out against the proposed sales tax increase for school facilities.

“This tax was a bad idea 6 years ago, when 81 percent of the voters of Madison County rejected it at the ballot box, and it’s still a bad idea today,” said Ron Jedda, vice chairman of the Madison County Republican Party, in a news release. “We understand that the state isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, and that we need to reform the ways that schools are funded in Illinois. But the answer is not to add yet another sales tax increase, which continues to make our retailers less competitive with businesses across the river.”

The tax is estimated to bring $22.7 million into the schools and would be split between school districts based on student population. The money can only be used for school-facilities purposes.

Under state law, the proposed 1 percent sales tax increase would not apply to groceries, medication or titled vehicles.

The Madison County GOP said the sales tax won’t lead to a reduction in property taxes, as contended by proponents of the referendum.

The group also said nothing in the law requires school boards to use the revenues to reduce property taxes.

Opponents of the sales tax said the increase could actually cause property taxes to rise, if sales tax revenues are insufficient to meet minimum bond payments by a particular school district, the increase would never expire, and bond companies and construction companies who are pushing for the passage of the sales tax would benefit from the new revenue.

“Opposing this tax doesn’t mean that you don’t support kids or you don’t support education,” Jedda said in the news release. “It means that you don’t support a flawed sales tax law that provides us no protection and no method to ever repeal it.”

Jeff Hewitt, chairman of Citizens for Madison County Schools — a group campaigning for the passage of the tax increase — said the criticisms by the Madison County GOP aren’t anything he hasn’t heard before.

He said school boards, such as Triad Community Unit School District 2, have passed resolutions detailing how they would use the money, which includes reducing property taxes.

Hewitt said money can also be used to help with needed maintenance to avoid having to take on long-term debt in the future.

Hewitt added that under state law, there is a process to reduce the sales tax, such as through a referendum.

He said construction companies can benefit from the sales tax. Companies that specialize in school construction would believe what they do is important, Hewitt said.

“The (construction companies) believe in what they’re doing when they build a school,” Hewitt said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter