Other county board members realize it's time for repairs

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

In his letter to the editor, Henry County Board member Bill Preston states he was the only member to vote against placing the one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax increase on the Feb. 2 ballot.?That is correct, but he was the only dissenting vote because all other board members understand the need to repair the 130-year old magnificent structure. Mr. Preston is incorrect in the other points he presents.

First, the 2008 referendum was not rejected by a 57 percent margin. Instead, it failed to pass by an 8 percent margin. By representing the vote in such a twisted manner,?Mr. Preston sets the stage to present further distortions concerning the issue of repairing the courthouse. Let me correct his errors by addressing the questions he raised.

Will the sales tax increase provide the revenue needed to repair the courthouse??Yes. The county needs to raise $397,000 annually to meet our bond obligations. Estimates from the bonding company project the annual revenue from the tax to be $600,000 to $800,000 annually.

The average Henry County resident will pay only $9-a-year toward the repairs because the tax does not apply to titled vehicles, groceries, medical needs, farm production or items sold privately. And, because it is a sales tax, visitors traveling through the county will be helping to pay for the repairs, too.

Is scaffolding cost a large part of the project??Yes. Safety requires such a cost and is one of the reasons the repairs cannot be done piecemeal. Dissecting the repairs into what Mr. Preston calls “individual projects’?would cause us to pay the scaffolding cost over and over again.

Does the project require $550,000 in lead paint abatement??Yes. State and federal law demand the abatement occurs. Divide the repairs into “individual projects” and we would be paying much more for the necessary repairs. In addition, “individual projects” would require a constant rotation of highly skilled workers, again, increasing the cost of the repairs.

Will the revenue from the sales tax increase be used to make the necessary repairs??Yes. As stated on the ballot, the monies must be directed toward the public facility.?The ballot also states that the sales tax increase will end after a 10-year period.

Is Henry County following the path of deficit spending akin to the State of Illinois? Absolutely not. The General Assembly has caused our large state deficits by “funding” programs without having access to the revenue to pay for projects they created. Passage of the sales tax increase establishes the mechanism to pay back the?$2.84 million bonds and the?$1.1 million interest. It is a responsible method for meeting the cost of the repairs.

Will Henry County’s general fund reserves be depleted in 2011??No. Not one person on the county board has ever indicated such a scenario. To make such a statement is a wild distortion of the facts. Actually, Mr. Preston makes so many inaccurate assertions they cannot all be addressed in one letter.

So, let me finish this letter by stating that your friends and neighbors serve on the Henry County Board. It is my experience they are all fiscally accountable public servants.

In asking voters to pass the Feb. 2 referendum, the board has been joined by a citizens’ committee made up of highly reputable people who understand the wisdom of repairing the courthouse now rather than passing the cost and the responsibilities to future generations.

Repairing the courthouse is the right thing to do. Funding those repairs through a one-quarter of 1 percent increase in the sales tax is the smart and responsible way to do it.

Tom Steele, Geneseo

Member, Henry County Board