DIXON – The proposed 1 percent sales tax to fund public school facilities drew majorities in just four of Lee County’s 49 precincts.
Countywide, 58.9 percent of voters rejected the tax – 8,774 against and 6,135 for, according to unofficial results. It was about the same everywhere. In Dixon precincts, 58.3 percent turned down the tax, while 59.3 percent in the rural areas did.
Precincts in north Dixon and in Ashton, Reynolds and Bradford townships had majorities for the tax.
On Wednesday, a key supporter of the tax said the scandal involving Rita Crundwell, a former Dixon city official accused of corruption, helped defeat the referendum.
In Dixon, the school board had promised to spend the tax revenue to build a sports and activities center. The other school districts said they would devote their share of the money to maintain existing school buildings.
Dixon’s southern precincts, which include low-income areas, drew some of the biggest majorities against the tax. One precinct voting at Loveland Community House voted 68.9 percent against, the city’s highest percentage.
That wasn’t a big surprise for Li Arellano, a Dixon businessman who argued against the tax.
For a working family, he said, the sales tax takes a bigger chunk of income, he said. The tax got more support from the middle and upper classes.
“For the working class, it’s a struggle to pay bills,” he said.
Danny Langloss, spokesman for We Are Dixon, which backed the tax, said the result was a “huge success for many reasons.”
“We’re really excited we have over 6,000 votes,” he said. “Seven thousand was the number we thought we had to get to. This is a vote that starts with ‘no’ and has to be moved to ‘yes.’ If we shift 900 votes, we win this.”
In their campaign, tax supporters faced headwinds. One of the biggest was the city scandal, Langloss said. Many didn’t separate the city ‘s troubles from the school district, which would have built the sports and activities center, he said.
“Rita Crundwell played a huge role,” Langloss said. “It brought distrust in government. Because of that, many people thought it wasn’t the right time [for a tax].”
Arellano agreed that Crundwell was a factor, but he said distrust of all levels of government played an even bigger role.
“Not many levels of government are spending money wisely,” said Arellano, a former candidate for state representative. “People will ask, ‘Why should I spend even more tax money when I’m not happy with how they’re spending it now?’”
Langloss also said many voters lacked information about the tax, despite We Are Dixon’s advertising campaign.
Many supporters want to put the referendum on the ballot for the April election. That would give We Are Dixon more time to campaign, Langloss said.
Langloss said if the issue returns to the ballot, We Are Dixon will do more to involve the county’s other school districts. It would start by having a leadership meeting in Ashton or Amboy and creating a new committee, he said.
“If our message went out the right way, we could have carried those other areas 80-20,” Langloss said. “This tax could stop their property taxes from increasing. This is a win-win in those areas.”
Whiteside County’s superintendents are considering putting the 1 percent sales tax on the countywide ballot in April.