Letters to the Editor

Two penny taxes for safety, schools can make St. Clair County stronger

What are the two essential building blocks for successful, growing communities — communities that attract new families, new home buyers and new businesses? Good schools and safe neighborhoods.

It’s no exaggeration to say property values and economic development are tied directly to these two services. Communities offering strong schools attract a steady stream of home buyers and experience rising home values. Companies choose safe communities as desirable places for new business locations and bring new jobs and new opportunities with them.

On April 4th we have the power to choose better schools and safer neighborhoods for now and into the future. We can do this by voting yes to put in place a one penny sales tax for schools and a one penny sales tax for public safety that will provide a steady source of local funding for these essential services. We won’t have to depend on politicians in Springfield or Washington, D.C., to do the right thing. School districts and local governments won’t have to keep piling on property taxes to plug budget gaps.

There’s a reason nearly half the counties in the state, including nearby Bond, Monroe and Randolph counties, have taken their futures into their own hands and passed similar sales taxes. St. Clair County has an added advantage over many of these other counties in that we are a regional retail center. That means that 30-40 percent of the revenues raised by these sales taxes will come from residents of other counties.

The one penny sales tax for schools can only be used to maintain or improve school facilities or to retire or pay down existing school bonds. This will give our teachers the kind of modern classrooms, laboratories and latest technology needed to provide our children the best education possible.

The public safety penny tax — by law — can only be used for public safety purposes and will not be used to subsidize non-public safety expenditures. In fact, the St. Clair County Board has passed a resolution committing every dime to police and fire needs in our County. The public safety penny tax will put more police and sheriff’s deputies on patrol, fund critical violent crime-fighting and anti-heroin efforts, increase victims’ services, make two-officer patrols possible, strengthen monitoring of offenders, improve MetroLink safety, modernize the jail and increase safety for jail personnel, among other things.

Not only will these sales taxes pay for these essential education and safety facilities and services, they will give school districts and local communities the ability to hold the line on future property tax increases that serve to hamper home values and steal from the investments people make in their homes.

Please join us in voting “yes” to support our teachers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and so many others who are on the front lines of making our communities even stronger places to live and to work. The jobs they do every day are essential to the quality of life here in St. Clair County and critical to a future where we reach our full potential. Let’s give them the resources they need to keep our county growing and successful.

Mark Kern is the St. Clair County chairman, Brendan Kelly is the county state’s attorney and Rick Watson is the county sheriff.