WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Sales Tax Referendum to Benefit Schools

Oct 24, 2016

McDonough County voters this fall are being asked to approve a one-cent increase in the county's sales tax. The money generated by it would go to local school districts to pay for construction and renovation projects.

Supporters say it will raise an estimated $2.2 million per year. The money will be distributed based on the number of students a district has from McDonough County:

  • Macomb -- 2,089 students -- $1.3 million
  • West Prairie -- 591 students -- $377,778
  • Bushnell-Prairie City -- 580 students -- $370,437
  • Schuyler-Industry -- 245 students -- $156,581
  • Southeastern -- 53 students -- $33,982
  • V.I.T. -- 23 students -- $14,919
  • LaHarpe -- 2 students -- $1,297
  • Illini West -- 1 student -- $670

Macomb School Superintendent Mark Twomey said the state has ceased providing construction grants to school districts so the tax is a way of raising money locally to benefit the county's schools.

"What I really like about it (the sales tax) is everyone contributes to the schools. Everyone who purchases things in McDonough County will help with the construction or renovation of our regional schools," Twomey said. 

He called it a small tax -- just one-cent on the dollar -- that will help school districts create 21st Century learning spaces. And he said it would help Macomb establish a middle school building separate from the high school, either through new construction or renovation of an existing building.

A similar tax is already charged in several other west central Illinois counties: Warren, Knox, Fulton, Schuyler, Brown, Cass, Mason, and Pike.

Items exempt from the tax include groceries and medicine; vehicles, boats, and RVs; and farm equipment, fertilizer and seeds.

Twomey is urging voters to make their voices heard on the referendum.

"When you put out a referendum like this, you really want to know what the community and the people of the region think," Twomey said. "The results of that vote will let us know as school leaders exactly where we are and where we stand and what we need to do for the future of the children of McDonough County."

If the referendum is approved, the tax would go into effect July 1, 2017 and school districts would likely start receiving money by November 2017.