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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Henry County schools ask for sales tax vote

  • Henry County school officials hope a proposed one-cent sales tax will be approved by voters on April 9.

    The school facilities sales tax mirrors a similar sales tax system used by counties in Iowa. The tax option has been available to Illinois counties since 2007.
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  • Henry County school officials hope a proposed one-cent sales tax will be approved by voters on April 9.
    The school facilities sales tax mirrors a similar sales tax system used by counties in Iowa. The tax option has been available to Illinois counties since 2007.
    If approved, funds generated by the sales tax could only be used for school facilities. It is estimated that the tax would generate approximately $3 million a year for Henry County schools.
    If passed, the tax would be implemented on Jan. 1, 2014.
    “Money could be used for new construction, additions, safety and security improvements, remodeling or acquisition of property,” said Geneseo School District superintendent Scott Kuffel. “It can’t be used for salaries, benefits or transportaion. You couldn’t use it for things like computers, textbooks or desks, but you could use it for roofs and windows and brick-and-mortar items.”
    The money also could be used to meet Health Life Safety mandates.
    “Most of the districts in Henry County are looking to abate some of their existing debt on construction debt or Health Life Safety bonds,” said Kuffel.
    Geneseo officials would consider using the funds to pay the district’s Health Life Safety bond.
    “Geneseo Middle School has been paid off, and we have no existing debt on the athletic facility or the new science labs,” he explained.
    In order for the one-cent school facilities sales tax issue to be added to the ballot, school boards representing at least 51 percent of the county’s students have to approve resolutions to place the question before voters.
    In Henry County, all nine school districts — Geneseo, Cambridge, Orion, Kewanee, Galva, Annawan, Colona, AlWood and Kewanee-Wethersfield — approved adding the item to the April 9th ballot.
    “I think all of the districts approving this speaks to a universal need. All of us recognize that having well-maintained, safe, secure schools is important,” said Kuffel.
    The one-cent sales tax would be collected by the State of Illinois and then distributed to the school districts on a per-pupil basis.
    In addition to Henry County school districts, other districts that count Henry County residents among their pupils would benefit from the sales tax.
    The United Township district could receive approximately $45,000 a year while the Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico district could see $11,000 a year.
    In comparison, Kuffel said early estimates state the Geneseo district would receive approximately $900,000 a year if the tax is approved.
    Though school districts have been hurt by delayed or non-existant school payments from the State of Illinois, Kuffel said he’s optimistic the state’s distribution of sales tax will be done in a timely manner.
    Page 2 of 2 - “So far, the counties who have successfully passed this referendum have seen their money in full and on time,” he said.
    In general, school districts are funded through property tax, which puts the burden of funding schools on land owners.
    “This tax impacts everyone somewhat equitably, including those who own property and those who rent,” said Kuffel.
    In addition, shoppers living outside of the county or state who purchase items in Henry County also will contribute.
    Kuffel said the interstate corridors transecting Henry County are a boon for the districts.
    “Travelers stop and fuel up as they pass through, bringing in revenue. The Walmart Supercenter in Kewanee and Good’s also bring in shoppers from outside of the county,” he explained.
    Exempt from the sales tax would be all titled sales, including cars, trucks, boats and mobile homes; groceries; medicine; and farm equipment, parts and
    farm inputs.
    “If it’s not currently taxed, it won’t be taxed,” said Kuffel.
    If voters approve the one-cent sales tax on April 9, Kuffel said Geneseo school officials would then create a long-term facilities master plan for the district.
    Wish list items for the Geneseo district would include a new fine arts addition at Geneseo High School as well as bleacher renovation at GHS.
    “There’s no shortage of wants and needs, but we would want to be appropriately fair to all buildings,” he said.
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