Monticello ponders school tax ballot measures
MONTICELLO — Owners of a $150,000 home in the Monticello school district would pay an extra $220 to $308 more per year in property taxes if taxpayers approve a $40 million bond referendum in November. The district is considering a ballot question to fund construction of a new high school and to convert the current one into a district pre-k through fifth grade facility.
But financial analyst Tim King told those gathered at a recent Sage Voices meeting that a 50- to 70-cent tax rate increase would still leave Monticello with one of the lowest tax rates (currently at $3.35 overall) in Illinois.
He also said the district has seen its overall land value triple to $224 million in 20 years, and has had at least small growth in each of those years.
"I can tell you there are very, very, very, very few communities that have a graph that goes up every year and never stops growing," said King, a Monticello resident and the owner of Kings Financial Consulting. "Most downstate communities are usually more level, or up and down but we're very blessed to have experienced really good growth."
The impact on property taxes could be reduced if a countywide school facilities sales tax is also approved. It would generate about $400,000 per year for Monticello schools — equal to about 15 cents on the overall tax rate — and could reduce the impact of the property tax jump by about $65 for owners of that $150,000 home if the district applied most of the sales tax proceeds to bond payments.
"It does make sense to consider it," Monticello School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said of the possibility of a sales tax referendum. Although he said it is not a "no-brainer," as it is for counties which are tourist destinations, interest in the idea surfaced in community meetings last fall.
The sales tax could be up to 1 percent and would affect only what is being taxed now. Excluded are unprepared food, medicine, drugs, vehicles and farm implements. Proceeds would be divided between all county school districts based on their number of students.
A countywide sales tax would need voter approval.
Dollars could only be used on school facilities or to pay off debt taken to pay for building needs.
A total of 21 counties in Illinois have approved a facilities sales tax, although McLean and DeWitt counties defeated it this past March.
If the purchasing of building bonds boosts Monticello school tax rates by 50 cents to an estimated $3.85, they would still be the second-lowest in the area, only behind Clinton's $3.61.
A 70-cent hike ($4.05) would also put them behind Mt. Zion ($3.86) and Meridian ($4.02), but still lower than other districts in the area, including Argenta-Oreana ($4.31), Unity ($4.53), Urbana ($4.95) and Blue Ridge ($5.34).
Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.