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Springfield School Board Looking into County Sales Tax for Revenue

Sangamon County residents would be taxed an additional one percent under a measure being discussed by the Springfield School Board.

The board is looking into a Sangamon County School Facilities Tax, which is designed to be used for new facilities, additions and renovations, ongoing maintenance and items like roof repairs and parking lots. The money cannot be used for buses, school books, computers, teacher salaries and operating costs.

School Board Vice President Adam Lopez is in favor of a sales tax, rather than the property tax being championed by the grassroots group Invest in 186. Lopez said, “let’s go for the one percent.” That one percent would bring in a lot of revenue for Springfield Schools.

But not just Springfield Schools would benefit. The tax is for the county so it would bring in an estimated $21.6 million, according to a reports from Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc. The board was given a presentation on what the benefits are of attempting to put this referendum in front of the voters. District 186 would receive $10.8 million annually, if passed.

There’s another hurdle. The board would need to pass a resolution but would also need the approval from other districts. Once that happens, the measure can be put on a ballot for the voters. The language is restricted to this:

“Shall a retailer’s occupation tax and a service occupation tax (commonly referred to as a “Sales Tax”) be imposed in (name of county) at a rate of (insert rate) to be used exclusively for school facility purposes?”

District 186 board members agreed the language was rough but it is non-negotiable. Stifel suggested a six-month campaign to bring about awareness on the idea. That can be costly. School Board President Chuck Flamini estimated as much as $75,000 would be spent, although Stifel encouraged the use of social media, a cheap tool.

Nothing will be decided in the short-term. It’s unlikely anything would pass in time for the spring ballot. Expect, if anything, the referendum to be on next November’s ballot. This is also the last the public could hear of it for awhile. Board Member Lisa Funderburg suggested this topic does not need to be on the agenda for the next few months.

A Sangamon County School Facilities Tax failed to pass in 2010.