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P-L-T District approves resolution

Referendum will be on ballot if Sterling backs it

PROPHETSTOWN – Another Whiteside County school district board has passed a resolution to put a 1-cent sales tax referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico board approved the move Monday, joining the Rock Falls Township High School, Rock Falls Elementary, River Bend and Montmorency districts in support of the referendum.

The tax, known as the County School Facility Sales Tax, was instituted by state law in 2007 as a means of shifting the burden of school funding away from property taxpayers.

If the referendum is put on the ballot and passes, the county sales tax would increase from 6.75 percent to 7.75 percent.

The other county school districts are Sterling, Erie, Morrison, and East Coloma-Nelson. The resolution has not yet been brought before those boards. Schools are not obligated to put the resolution to their boards for a vote. If the measure passes, however, all schools benefit, regardless of whether they voted.

The number of students represented by the boards that vote to support the measure must constitute a simple majority of the county’s students for the regional superintendent to certify the resolution to the county clerk.

Regional Schools Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth said he has received the certification paperwork from P-L-T and River Bend.

“We can’t count them until the official documents are in,” Sondgeroth said. “I have until Aug. 18 to send the certification of public question to the county clerk to get the question on the Nov. 4 ballot.”

Sterling is by far the largest district, with 37 percent of the county’s 9,450 students. Sterling has called a special board meeting for July 2. Although the agenda isn’t finalized, the plan is to address the sales tax resolution at that meeting, the district said.

“If we get Sterling, they would put us over the edge,” Sondgeroth said. “I would still wait until every district that plans to bring the resolution to their board has the opportunity.”

This is the fourth time in 7 years Whiteside County schools have tried to put the tax on the ballot. Last year, the county’s voters shot down the request for a 1-cent sales tax increase for school facilities by a vote of 4,253 to 3,599, or 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent.

The money from the tax can be used only for maintaining, renovating and upgrading existing school buildings, new construction projects, or paying off bonds taken out for buildings and maintenance purposes.

The tax is not assessed for groceries, medication, services, farm equipment, cars, trucks, ATVs, boats, RVs, and mobile homes.

P-L-T Superintendent Dave Rogers said his district stands to receive an estimated $410,000, if the sales tax hike is passed. He said his district would use the extra money to pay off the district’s remaining Health/Life Safety bonds and for general maintenance and upkeep projects in its four buildings.

“There are always plenty of maintenance things to do,” Rogers said. “We do a roofing project every year.”

This year’s roofing project comes with a $100,000 price tag. The district was able to get a state maintenance grant to cover half of the cost.

The district in 2010 received more than $14 million from the state for additions to the high school and Tampico Elementary School. The district had to dip into its cash reserves for about $4.8 million in matching funds. The additions came in at $18.9 million.

Rogers came to Illinois from Iowa, the state in which the school facility sales tax originated and was adopted by districts in all 99 counties.

“Nobody wants to pay taxes, but state schools are at a point financially where they ask ‘Where do you turn next?’” Rogers said.

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