Editorials

Madison County school sales tax gets a called third strike, so it's out

Picket signs at the Poplar Street and Route 143 roundabout in Highland. On March 20, voters in Madison County will cast their ballots for a third time on a sales tax that would benefit local schools. The left is a sign promotes the measure, while the right presents its opposition.
Picket signs at the Poplar Street and Route 143 roundabout in Highland. On March 20, voters in Madison County will cast their ballots for a third time on a sales tax that would benefit local schools. The left is a sign promotes the measure, while the right presents its opposition. mbraa@bnd.com

The third time was not a charm, despite the close vote tally on the previous vote to impose a school sales tax in Madison County. Tuesday's defeat of the 1 cent sales tax hike to fund school construction was a solid, hard "no" that school leaders should not interpret as anything but a message to stop asking the question.

Still, Granite City school Superintendent James Greenwald seemed to hold out some hope that it might get a fourth chance.

“This year’s results after coming so close last year just shows that people change their minds,” he said.

Apparently, they don't.

Greenwald couldn't say whether there would be another try.

But let's be clear. Eighty percent of voters said "no" the first time. There was a narrow margin of 249 voters the second time, but the third try was a two-thirds "no" vote. "No," apparently, means "no."

"No" means that voters don't want their retailers damaged by having some of the highest sales taxes in the state. "No" means that voters don't support $23.4 million in new taxes without a specific need.

"No" also means Illinois property taxes are the highest in the nation, so should not be a source of funds unless individual schools have a specific need. Then those schools should build a case and ask the voters whether they will increase their property taxes to fill that need, as has been the practice for decades.

St. Clair County schools also should take note of this rejection. They've only asked once and were told "no" on this 1 percent school sales tax.

They should find no encouragement to ask again.

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