ROCK FALLS – Only a few voters turned out Monday night to get last-minute answers about the proposed 1-percentage-point sales tax increase for school facilities.
Whiteside County residents vote on the proposal today – the third time since November 2008.
If voters approve the increase, each school district would get a proportion of the annual county sales tax revenue based on its share of overall county enrollment, regardless of whether the district supported the measure.
For the low-income Rock Falls Elementary School District, that means about $550,000, Superintendent Dan Arickx told attendees Monday.
Each district could use its share of the money to construct new buildings or add on to or renovate existing buildings; make facilities handicapped accessible; or repair parking lots and sidewalks, aging roofs and boilers, among other improvements.
A district also could use the money to abate property taxes levied to pay off existing capital improvement bonds.
In Rock Falls, the five-building elementary district would do both, Arickx said: lower property taxes by 33 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation, or about 11 percent, and make facilities improvements, including repaving parking lots, replacing roofs and renovating bathrooms.
“This is to create property tax relief,” he said. “I’ve said it all along. I’ve guaranteed it. I’ve promised it.”
A district resident with a $90,000 house pays $99 a year in taxes just to repay building- improvement debt, Arickx said. That same resident would have to spend $9,900 on taxable goods (not groceries or medications) a year, or $825 a month, for it to be “a wash,” he said.
One voter argued that people cannot afford to be hit in the pocketbook with another tax.
“People are going to get hit this year with taxes,” he said. “This is another tax. ... So it’s tax, tax, tax.”
Arickx contended that most people, especially property taxpayers in Rock Falls, would see a savings with the increased sales tax; he said most people don’t spend that much on taxable goods.
Another voter, from Sterling, agreed; she said low-income families likely aren’t spending much on items that would be subject to the increased tax.
“They’re not buying a lot of consumer goods. They’re barely getting by,” she said.
Arickx reminded voters to weigh their options and consider what is best for their family.
Whiteside County voters have denied the increase twice before. In April 2009, they rejected the referendum, 55 percent to 45 percent. The time before that, in November 2008, they denied it, 58 percent to 42 percent.