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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Henry County voters approve tax for schools

  • Henry County voters agreed to a 1-cent sales tax increase with proceeds going to local school districts.

    During the April 9 election, unofficial vote totals had 4,202 voters saying “yes” to the measure, while 3,442 voted against it. Another 433 voters opted to leave that part of their ballot blank.
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  • Henry County voters agreed to a 1-cent sales tax increase with proceeds going to local school districts.
    During the April 9 election, unofficial vote totals had 4,202 voters saying "yes" to the measure, while 3,442 voted against it. Another 433 voters opted to leave that part of their ballot blank.
    The sales tax revenue can only be used by districts for school facilities projects. It is estimated the tax will generate approximately $3 million a year for Henry County schools. The Geneseo School District alone could receive $900,000 a year.
    "There are a lot of people who worked very hard to make voters aware of the impact of this sales tax," said Geneseo School District superintendent Scott Kuffel.
    "It's very gratifying to see people come forward and support this initiative. I hope people see it as a real positive down the line. We'll do the best we can to steward that money and report and advertise to the voters how it's being used," he added.
    While voters in Mercer County approved a similar sales tax, the issue was defeated in Whiteside County. In LaSalle County, voters defeated the measure for a second time.
    "I think what helped us was geographically being so close to Iowa (which has offered the sales tax for school facilities option for years)," said Kuffel. "People have been able to get the picture of what this has done for schools in Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley and Clinton."
    "Money (can) be used for new construction, additions, safety and security improvements, remodeling or acquisition of property," said Kuffel previously. "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 can be used to meet Health Life Safety mandates.
    In order for the 1-cent school facilities sales tax issue to be added to the ballot, school boards representing at least 51 percent of the county's students had 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.
    "This was a real historic event in that it was the first time all of the school districts in Henry County had worked together for a common theme," said Kuffel.
    "Because (the decision to place the issue on the ballot) was virtually unanimous in every (Henry County) district, I think it speaks volumes to the collaboration. This had great support in every one of the districts," he said.
    In addition to Henry County school districts, other districts that count Henry County residents among their pupils will benefit from the sales tax.
    Page 2 of 2 - The United Township district could receive approximately $45,000 a year, while the Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico district could see $11,000 a year.
    The 1-cent sales tax will be collected by the State of Illinois and then distributed to the school districts on a per-pupil basis.
    The tax will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2014. The tax is collected by the Department of Revenue and held by the state treasurer in the school facilities occupation tax fund. The Department of Revenue will retain 2 percent for administrative costs.
    On a monthly basis, Department of Revenue officials will certify to the state comptroller the amount to be disbursed to the regional superintendent of schools, who will then distribute it to the Henry County districts.
    Geneseo could see revenue from the sales tax as early as February 2014.
    Although there are limits to what the money can be used for, there are no stipulations as to when the money must be spent.
    "It does not have to all be spent in a year or spent as it comes in," explained Kuffel, adding districts could save the revenue for years or decades to fund larger projects.
    "There is a wish list," he said. "There's a need to do some real comprehensive planning and prioritizing and preparations, but there have been some initial plans."
    Long-term "wish list" items for the Geneseo School District include construction of a performing arts center, renovations to the high school stadium and the addition of a multi-purpose room at Northside Elementary.
    In the more immediate future, funds could be used to pay for Health-Life Safety requirements and improvements.
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