Across the state of Illinois, schools are struggling to come up with the revenue necessary to make sure our educational facilities — and our children’s educations — are the best they can be.
Meanwhile, taxpayers in our communities are struggling to make ends meet in an economy that has still yet to fully recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
It’s time to embrace new ideas.
In the coming weeks, area school boards will begin discussing one such idea — a plan to push for a countywide 1 percent sales tax increase that would generate money for education. If school boards representing more than 50 percent of the county’s student population pass resolutions in favor by the end of this year, the initiative will be on the ballot for the March 2014 election.
The Morris Daily Herald recommends the boards get to work immediately toward passing such a resolution.
The Illinois County School Facility Tax, based on the one every county in Iowa has already implemented, would be added to currently taxed items. The revenue generated would go to facility-related educational costs, such as additions and renovations, but could also be used to pay off outstanding building bonds to lower existing property taxes.
Using an alternative source of revenue like the sales tax increase could stave off any future property tax hikes due to building costs — and, in some cases, might even reduce current property tax rates as the new money is used to address existing expenses.
Money for schools.
Lessening the burden on homeowners.
That’s a win-win in our book.
While Grundy County residents will still pay into facility costs via the sales tax, our location at the confluence of several major interstates would ensure significant revenue for our schools would also come from passing motorists stopping in town for food or fuel.
That revenue would be divided among school districts based on the percentage of county students they educate, which should make Morris districts especially enthusiastic — together, our four districts represent an estimated 31 percent of enrolled students in the county.
Granted, shifting some of the funding doesn’t make that responsibility disappear. The money still has to come from somewhere, and the sales tax increase is just that — an increase.
But adding 1 percent would give us a 7.25 percent sales tax rate — pretty comparable to nearby counties like La Salle (6.50), Will (7.0) and Kendall (7.25).
And boards reticent to go that high can vote for the sales tax to be implemented at less than 1 percent, in quarter increments. Any amount of revenue the county can bring in for schools without further burdening the property taxpayer would be welcome.
Eighteen counties in Illinois have already passed the tax.
Grundy County should follow them. ———
The Morris Daily Herald’s editorial decisions are made by an editorial board lead by General Manager Bob Wall and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. Decisions are made in consultation with other members of the MDH staff as appropriate.