Updated: Douglas County sales tax for schools passes

Updated: Douglas County sales tax for schools passes

Updated 9:56 p.m. Tuesday.

TUSCOLA — Voters in Douglas County have approved a 1 percent sales tax to help school districts pay for building improvements and pay off construction debt.

County residents voted 2,346 to 1,755 on Tuesday to approve the sales tax for school facilities.

"That's wonderful news," said Arcola school Superintendent Jean Chrostoski. "We're very pleased, and we thank the community members throughout the county who supported this."

Villa Grove school Superintendent Steven Poznic said the vote shows the people of Douglas County support their children and their schools.

"I think this vote is an indication the people want to support education in Douglas County," he said. "This is definitely a victory for the students."

The race proved to be a contest between Tuscola, which already has a half-cent home rule sales tax for schools, and the rest of the county.

Voters in Tuscola voted 749 to 128 against the ballot question, while the remainder of the county voted 2,218 to 1,006 in favor of it.

Under the terms of the agreement establishing the Tuscola tax, the half-cent tax in Tuscola will go away since the countywide ballot question has been passed, since the schools will be getting money from the new 1 percent sales tax.

"Tuscola CUSD #301 is certainly happy for the students of Douglas County," said Tuscola Superintendent Michael Smith. "All along, we have understood the difficult financial position other schools are also facing.

"As superintendent, I have certainly appreciated the support of our city government in granting us the half-cent home-rule sales tax and now am just as appreciative of the county voters enacting a 1 percent sales tax increase."

Chrostoski said Arcola's money — estimated at $390,000 a year — will be used for a parking lot project, the installation of an elevator to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, roof repairs and the abatement of $2.4 million of bonds previously issued by the district.

"All the school districts have bond debt, and this will alleviate the burden from local property tax owners," she said.

Poznic estimates the tax will bring an additional $344,000 a year to the Villa Grove school district.

He said the district would like to use that money to pay for building improvements, including a new roof for the school building; improvements to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems; locker room renovations; and other projects.

Poznic said he doesn't think the school district will start receiving the new money until 2014.

Smith estimates the Tuscola school district will receive about the same amount of money from the 1 percent sales tax that it now gets from the half-cent sales tax.

"Like all schools, we are facing challenging financial times, and while these sales taxes don't help our education funds, they do allow us to address some of the many building needs we all have," Smith said.