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Local

School board discusses sales tax increase

Resolution could be passed next month

STERLING – Whiteside County residents likely will see a request for a 1 percent sales tax increase to support school facilities on the ballot in April – that is, if the Sterling School Board passes a resolution in support of the proposal by Jan. 22.

Three districts already plan to back the measure, Sterling Superintendent Tad Everett told the board Wednesday. Sterling, with its 36 percent of the enrollment in the county, would tip the scale toward a ballot measure.

The Sterling Public Schools would get the lion’s share of revenue – more than $1.5 million a year or more than $30 million over the 20-year life of the tax – from a 1 percent sales tax increase, Everett told the board. That would cover what the district typically has bonded out for Health/Life Safety funds every 10 years, he said.

“This is a new revenue source,” Everett said. “It takes a large amount of money for us to keep our facilities up and running. ... Assuming we stick with the status quo, every 10 years, we bond $8 million to $10 million of taxpayer money to deal with these ongoing facilities issues, or, with the tax, one thing we could offer the community is some relief from that.”

The board will review a detailed list of proposed facilities needs and could vote on a resolution to place the 1 percent sales tax increase on the ballot at its December meeting.

Also Wednesday, the board:

n Discussed the annual school report card. Everett noted that the district, although it did not make adequate yearly progress toward national education standards, continues to make strides, with 81 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards on state tests last year.

n Approved a tentative tax levy of $13.84 million. Finance director Tim Schwingle noted the estimated equalized assessed value of the district decreased 1 percent from last year and the tentative levy increased 1.07 percent over last year. He noted the tax rate decreased 0.81 percent.

n Approved the annual financial audit. Schwingle said the auditors gave the district a clean report, but recommended several measures to increase internal controls, mostly because auditors are coming down more sternly on government organizations as a result of the Rita Crundwell scheme.

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