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Candidates discuss use of sales tax

Building and maintenance, or build a sports complex?

DIXON – School board candidate John Jacobs said Thursday’s discussion was like planning on winning the lottery.

The 1 percentage-point sales tax hike and what to do with those potential funds was the hot topic Thursday at a forum for Dixon School Board candidates.

Four of the six candidates running for four open seats attended the forum at Loveland Community House, hosted by Organizing for Grassroots Awareness in front of about a dozen people.

“We don’t have any of these funds,” Jacobs said.

Each candidate in attendance supported the 1 percentage-point sales tax, which would bring $1.2 million of funds to Dixon schools if the referendum passes Tuesday.

They varied on how the money should be used, though.

Incumbents Woody Lenox and Jacobs were in attendance, along with Josh Arduini and Jonathan Gieson. With only a week’s notice given to candidates before the forum, incumbent Pam Tourtillot and Terry Shroyer said they had prior engagements they could not break.

In November, the school board passed a resolution saying it would use the funds for a $10 million to $15 million sports and activities complex. The referendum failed.

This time around, the board released a position statement saying that, if voters approve the tax, “the dollars would be used to complete needed work in the buildings and help keep property taxes down.”

Gieson said he would like to see building improvements and infrastructure projects tackled first.

Jacobs said buildings and maintenance is a priority but said the additional revenue could offset costs in other funds, potentially meaning less layoffs or cuts. He also said he supports a scaled-back sports and activities complex that would cost around $3 million to $4 million, similar to Westwood Sports Center in Sterling.

Lenox opposed seeing the money spent on a sports and activity complex, calling that kind of project the park district’s responsibility. He said it would be unethical to transfer any funds from the 1 percentage-point sales tax.

Also, he said he supports the money being used to build a kindergarten through 12th grade campus in the future.

“Our high school is over 80 years old, and we have grade schools over 75 years old,” Lenox said. “They are aging, and we have to think about the future of those buildings.”

Arduini said priority should be given to maintenance of the school’s buildings, and then handled on a case-by-case basis in the future.

Each candidate was not opposed to the idea of buying land for future projects.

Arduini said he would have to see the deal and hear the plan before making a decision.

Buying land would be the first step toward a K-12 campus, Lenox and Gieson agreed.

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