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Sales tax referendum going back on the ballot

Public to be asked how money should be spent

DIXON – The 1-cent sales tax referendum will be on the ballot again in Lee County this April.

Despite a 5-1 vote in favor of the resolution Wednesday, though, the Dixon School Board is reconsidering its plans to build a sports and activities complex with the funds. A decision on how that potential money would be spent could come in February, after a public planning session Jan. 26.

In November, 58.9 percent of Lee County voters rejected the tax, which would have brought about the construction of the sports and activities complex in Dixon and maintenance upgrades in other county schools. Sales tax proceeds can be spent on infrastructure, maintenance and building upgrades only.

Superintendent Michael Juenger said those previous plans no longer apply and the board would have to vote again if it decides to make any future plans for the money.

Board member Woody Lenox, the sole vote against the sales tax proposal, said he does not see how this time is any different from last.

“We vote on the 1 percent, then a few weeks later we’ll make another non-binding vote (on the sports complex),” Lenox said. “We haven’t made it clear to the public that what we’re doing is separate, or that we’re looking at it any differently. Until we do that, I’m going to vote no.”

Board member Pam Tourtillott disagreed.

“As of right now, it is separate; we can’t do anything if we don’t put it on the ballot first,” Tourtillott said.

Two people spoke in public comment against the sales tax proposal, including a Dixon businessman who said he is more against the plans the board made for the money than the actual tax.

Many other Lee County schools voted in favor of this resolution, but Dixon’s vote Wednesday assured the resolution will be on the ballot, Juenger said.

Juenger encouraged those in attendance to come to the Jan. 26 meeting and take part in the discussion regarding plans for the sales tax money.

Also Wednesday, Dixon Education Association president Sandra Sodergren-Baar told the board that the teachers union is frustrated with slow collective bargaining talks. The teachers have been working without a contract since August.

Teachers took a soft freeze in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, only to have 20 teaching positions eliminated, Sodergren-Baar said.

“In light of the previous sacrifice, we are now asking to increase our salaries and to maintain our current level of benefits.”

She said she could not comment on the extent of salary increases teachers are asking for until the board makes a counteroffer to a recent teachers proposal.

Juenger said board members are just as frustrated by the progress of talks, but are limited in what they can do since the district received about $700,000 less in revenue this year.

To attend

The Dixon School Board will hold a public planning session from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 26 at its administration building, 1335 Franklin Grove Road.

The board is seeking input on how any potential sales tax money should be spent. Plans to use the funds to build a sports complex are up in the air.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.disconschools.org or call 815-284-7722.

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