About a dozen citizens attended a public meeting Wednesday night at Belleville West to ask questions and better understand what a 1-cent sales tax could do for school districts in St. Clair County if it were to make it on the November ballot.
The issue will be put in front of voters if districts representing more than 50 percent of the student enrollment within the county approve adding it to the ballot. The added sales tax, by state law, can be used on additions and renovations, security and maintenance, as well as for debt on construction or renovation of buildings.
Belleville District 201 held the meeting Wednesday night at Belleville West. The district was also joined by Millstadt and Wolf Branch administrators with the purpose of providing an overview of a potential penny sales tax.
Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer led a presentation and held a discussion for a small group afterward.
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“It’s a 1-cent sales tax county-wide that’s added to basically any item that’s already taxed,” Mentzer explained. “This is, essentially, a facilities improvement and/or offset tax, so you can only use this money for some very focused things.”
Mentzer said the sales tax base would apply to many goods except cars, trucks, ATVs, boats and RVs, mobile homes, unprepared food, drugs, farm equipment and parts and farm inputs. He said services are not taxed.
He also listed potential uses for the sales tax, including new facilities, additions and renovations, security, maintenance, architectural planning, durable equipment, fire prevention and life safety, land acquisition, energy efficiency, parking lots, technology infrastructure and roof repairs. Administrators emphasized that the penny sales tax could be use to refund bonds or reduce property taxes levied to pay bonds issued for capital purposes.
Belleville District 201 said if the sales tax was added to the ballot and passed by voters, it would use the majority of revenues to offset current property tax obligations.
Superintendent Jeff Dosier, of Belleville District 201, earlier said the sales tax would be “a good opportunity to provide property tax relief.” Based on a worksheet provided at the meeting, the high school district could potentially anticipate about $2.5 million in annual revenue from the sales tax. County-wide, the calculations reported more than $22 million, if the sales tax measure came to fruition.
According to calculations shared Wednesday, Belleville District 201 accounts for 11.4 percent of total student enrollment for St. Clair County, with 4,750 students enrolled in the 2015-16 school year.
A few in attendance asked questions and shared comments about the potential tax measure. Some specifically addressed Belleville and current TIF districts in place.
“My concern is that if we had a new revenue source, a new taxing source, totally separate from the real estate, we’ve got one 17th century tax system being tacked onto a 21st century tax system and now we’re talking about a new tax system,” said Ron O’Connor. “There has to be a better way than starting a new tax system.”
Additional community meetings about the penny sales tax are expected to be held in the county for other districts this summer.
“The individual boards have got to make some decisions,” Mentzer explained. “Ultimately, this doesn’t got on the ballot until enough boards of education pass resolutions to represent, I believe, 51 percent of the (student) population.”