HAD ENOUGH: Taxpayers in McLean County are saying
no to a new tax for
"Our (state) priority is public education. We need to refocus our
priorities," state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, told Illinois Watchdog.
Illinois is supposed to pick up most of the cost for public schools, but in
the current budget, lawmakers cover just 28 percent of the tab. Local
taxpayers, primarily through local property taxes, pay 61 percent of the
cost for schools. The federal government pays for the rest.
In 2007, the Illinois General Assembly authorized schools to use a
countywide sales tax to make up any school funding shortfalls.
"(The sales tax money) provides the ability to help their schools on a local
basis, with voters having the say," Brady said.
As long as schools that make up a majority of students agree, voters will be
asked to approve up to a 1 percent sales tax increase.
Voters in 16 counties are being asked to approve sales tax increases this
Ben Scwharm, vice president of the Illinois Association of School Boards,
said those counties are Carroll, Coles, DeWitt, Effingham, Fulton, Gallatin,
Hamilton, Mason, McLean, Peoria, Pike, Randolph, Rock Island, Shelby,
Stephenson and Whiteside counties.
McLean County, however, has seen a revolt against the proposed tax hike.
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Erik Prenzler, a local business owner, founded a group to fight what would
be a $17 million-a-year tax increase.
"It's $17.9 million in new taxes," Prenzler said earlier this
month. "They can take (those dollars) and they can put debt on that.
That would equate to about $192 million of bond debt."
Prenzler said McLean County Unit District 5, the biggest school
district in the county, hasn't shown the need or the discipline for
almost $200 million in taxpayer-guaranteed borrowing ability.
Unit 5 leaders say the countywide sales tax increase is needed to
build new schools.
But Prenzler points out Unit 5 just hired a new superintendent at
$190,000 a year. That is $40,000 more than he previously made.
"We're talking about basic financial management," Prenzler said.
"The expenses are just gone through the roof."
Unit 5 is promising to lower property taxes a bit, about $100 on a
$200,000 home, but only if taxpayers approve the sales tax increase.
Prenzler said taxpayers can see through that bribe.
Voters will have their say Tuesday.
article courtesy of
Contact Benjamin Yount at
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