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home : news : local   May 26, 2016

8/2/2012 11:53:00 PM
Countywide school ballot question gains steam

Matthew Baker
Staff Writer

A 1 percent increase in local sales tax would be good news for schools, including La Salle Elementary School.
“I just see so many positives that would come out of that,” said superintendent Dan Marenda.
The La Salle Elementary School Board this week approved a resolution in support of putting the tax increase up for referendum vote.
If school boards representing at least 51 percent of students in the county pass similar resolutions the Regional Office of Education will have to place the issue on the referendum ballot.
La Salle County clerk Jo Ann Carretto said area school boards have until Aug. 20 to formally vote on the initiative. Then the La Salle County Superintendent of School’s Office has until Aug. 30 to certify the question with the clerk’s office before it is officially placed on the ballot.
Considering the number of school districts already in support and those expected to act similarly, Marenda believes that districts representing 75 percent or more of La Salle County students will push the issue to a vote in November.
For La Salle Elementary, the tax increase would bring in roughly an additional $578,000 that could “only be used for capital needs for schools,” Marenda said. With his district operating on an expected $1 million deficit budget this year, such funding would be greatly appreciated.
Marenda couldn’t speculate to how other La Salle County school districts would use their revenue, but his would likely go to constructing the new preschool building the district has been hoping to build for a couple years.
His current preschool facility, Jackson School, is outdated and repairs to bring it up to “basic life/safety standards” would cost approximately $1 million to $2 million, he said. Instead of updating the school the district would prefer to build a new facility.
In either case, without additional revenue, Marenda said, the district would almost certainly have to increase their local property tax levy to fund this project.
“We understand that times are tough, we’re trying to avoid increasing our local property taxes,” he said.
The County School Facility Occupation Tax, on the other hand, would be a small increase in sales tax on discretionary items, Marenda said. Groceries, medical supplies, automobiles and farm implement sales would be exempt from the tax increase.
However La Salle County school districts use the revenue, Marenda said it would certainly create jobs for local laborers as those districts would begin facility construction, remodeling and maintenance projects.
“This takes the money and turns it right back into the community,” he said.
Being that it’s a sales tax increase rather than a property tax increase the new revenue would in some part come from out-of-area people passing through the county on interstates 80 and 39 rather than being fully supported by local property owners, Marenda argued.

Related Stories:
• 1-cent sales tax for school facilities on way to ballot countywide?

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