Hirtzel, Milleville Question School Tax Swap Proposal


Published on December 3 2013 9:06 pm
Last Updated on December 3 2013 9:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan presented the proposal to increase the sales tax in the county by 1% in exchange for a reduction in Unit 40's property tax levy to the Effingham City Council Tuesday night.

City Commissioners Matt Hirtzel and Brian Milleville asked several questions about the proposal.



Hirtzel indicated that the proposal could hamper the City from instituting a similar sales tax in exchange for lowering city property taxes at some future point.  He also said he was concerned that much of the sales tax revenue would be generated in the city, but would be distributed throughout the county.  That's because the law that allows the tax swap to be considered requires that all districts in a county must participate in the plan and as a result share in the sales tax revenue.

Milleville asked what assurance Doan could give that the pledge to abate the property tax levy would hold true?  Doan said to study the history of the district.

Milleville said raising the sales tax might handicap the City's ability to attract additional businesses.  Doan said Unit 40 needs to have the ability to keep District facilities suitable, which is also an attraction for prospective businesses.

Milleville contended that increasing the sales tax could hurt lower income individuals.  Doan contended during his presentation that a sales tax is more fair than property tax since everyone pays sales tax, whereas only property owners pay property taxes.

Milleville asked why have the question on the March ballot instead of waiting until the November election when more people are likely to vote?  Doan said March is the next election.  Mayor Merv Gillenwater added that if people care about the issue, they'll get out and vote.

Milleville asked about declining enrollments and whether it will lead to consolidation in some districts?  Doan said no one ever talks about consolidating with Unit 40.

Doan said the District could operate more efficiently with three attendance centers.  The plan would be to utilize the high school building, Central School and a third building that would either be built or renovated.  The additional revenue from the sales tax increase would first be used to pay off existing building bonds from improvements made in recent years to Central and from the construction of the high school building.  Once those are paid off, the revenue would be utilized for the construction or renovation project.