Vote against sales tax increase, board member says

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

The Henry County Board has again voted to place a 1/4 of 1 percent sales tax referendum on the ballot for courthouse repairs. The sales tax increase, if approved, will be used to buy $2.8 million of bonds to finance the proposed repairs.

This is the same proposal that was on the ballot last spring and was rejected by Henry County voters by a margin of 57 percent. I?again was the only dissenting vote on this referendum.

The administration committee will again use the same “soft sell approach” that is used by so many credit card companies. Their sales pitch will be that it will only cost 25 cents for a $100 purchase. However, they will downplay hard issues.

If the voters approve this measure, it gives the administration committee authority to buy $2.8 million in bonds. Along with $1.1 million in interest charges, the total liability to the county will be $3.9 million dollars. The proposed sales tax might pay off this liability, but there is no guarantee of that. As Geneseo has painfully discovered, estimated sales tax revenues do not always materialize.

In their preliminary estimate, actual repairs to the courthouse will be $1.6 million. The remaining $1.2 million would be used to pay for various fees such as overhead and contractor profits. In that estimate, $261,000 will be spent for scaffolding (gold plated connectors might be used). Another $500,000 will be used for lead paint abatement. These two items along account for 49 percent of the entire construction cost.

The remaining repair items proposed, such as masonry work, carpentry, metal work, window repair, painting and tower clock repair could all be done as individual projects when money becomes available. However, the current administration committee won’t consider this — it’s “their way or the highway.”

The courthouse roof is leaking and should have been repaired long ago. There are monies in a “restricted building fund” that could be used to fix it. Why hasn’t it been done? Could it be that the monies in the fund were originally intended to build a parking lot out of the current Cambridge Park? It’s a project the administration committee worked very hard to push through in 2008. They still have the authority from the board to proceed with this project.

In November 2009, the county board approved the county budget for fiscal year 2010. Along with three other Republicans, I opposed this budget, which has a deficit of?$500,000. The deficit will be financed with monies from the general fund. The 2011 budget will also have a deficit that will deplete all reserves in the general fund. Can this trend continue??Obviously it can’t.

The administration committee says the proposed sales tax increase will be put into a “lock box” and opened only for the purpose of paying off the bonds. Since the county board trend is deficit spending, one could ask just how long will it take before a key is found to “unlock the locked sales tax box”? The alternative would require a raise in property tax levies to pay for the deficit.

I hope the citizens of Henry County will realize we can’t take the path of continuous deficit spending. The State of?Illinois is close to bankruptcy because of continuous deficit spending, let’s not copy their example.

The citizens of Henry County used good judgement and rejected this referendum last spring by a vote of 57 percent. The same message must be sent to the administration committee again.

Bill Preston, Henry County Board? Member