Highland News Leader

Schools may ask Madison County voters again to implement sales tax

The Highland School Board hopes the third try is the charm when it comes a county-wide sales tax increase for Madison County schools.

During its meeting on Nov. 27, the board passed a resolution to move toward putting a 1 percent sales tax increase on the March primary election ballot. Superintendent Mike Sutton said that during their last, Madison County superintendents decided to have their boards consider whether or not to put the sales tax back on the ballot again this spring.

The Highland School Board passed the resolution with board members Jim Gallatin, Aaron Schuster, Robert Miller, Zach Lewis and Rene Friedel voting in favor of the tax.

Board member David Raymond was the only person to vote against the resolution.

Board member Joe Mott was absent from the board meeting and did not provide any comment for how he would have voted.

In order to get the tax referendum on the spring ballot, school board representing at least 50 percent of the students in Madison County must adopt the resolution.

If the issues does make the ballot, it will be the third time Madison County voters will have weighed in on the idea. The tax was voted on in 2017 and 2011, both times it was rejected. In 2011, the proposal failed by a more than 4-to-1 margin.

However, Sutton said he thinks some districts that opposed previous attempts, such as Edwardsville, may advocate for passage this time.

“That was one of the big hindrances last year,” Sutton said.

Edwardsville’s will not be voting on the resolution until its December meeting, according to the district’s Superintendent Lynda Andre. Sutton also said it is rumored that Triad, Alton, and Granite City are also supportive of the resolution. But Sutton said he is sure Collinsville will oppose the tax.

By law, if the tax were to pass, the money could only be used to build new facilities, buy land, repair existing facilities, technology infrastructure, or purchase durable equipment (non-movable items). The money can also be used to retire existing debt incurred for such purposes.

The money cannot be used for salaries, operating costs, text books, buses, furniture, etc.

The tax is only applicable to products currently subject to other taxation, namely smaller consumer goods. Products not subject to the tax include automobiles, boats, ATVs, RVs, mobile homes, agriculture machinery and inputs, groceries and medicine.

The money is collected on all sales within the county, then disbursed back to individual school districts based on their student population. Sutton said that the tax would generate an estimated $1.7 million in revenue for the district and about $40 million for county schools as a whole. Sutton also said 40 percent of those monies would be from shoppers from outside of Madison County.

“That’s where the good deal is for the tax payers. It’s just a matter of communicating that and then believing it,” Sutton said.

But at least one of his own board members does not.

“Sixty percent of the bill comes out of the (local) people’s pocket,” said Raymond, the lone no vote on the Highland School Board.

Finding support in Highland could be hard. Recently, the Highland City Council implemented a new  1/2 cent sales tax increase within three new business districts, without voter approval.

“That is my only concern at this time — that there is a pretty sour taste out there in the community right now about the sales tax being implemented without voter approval,” Sutton said.

The additional school sales tax, coupled with the city tax, would put Highland’s sales tax rate at 9.35 percent.

While Sutton said he feels the timing is off, he said the board’s decision merely puts the tax on the ballot.

“Our residents will have an opportunity to vote whether the revenue is necessary to help fund school facilities,” Sutton said.

During the same meeting, the board also approved an amended five-year facility plan, on which there are some items the tax revenue could pay for.

“That revenue could be used to knock that list out in quite a hurry,” Sutton said.

Megan Braa: 618-654-2366, ext 23, @MeganBraa_