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    Posted February 21, 2014 by
    Shelbyville, Illinois

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    Shelby County to Vote on 1% Education Sales Tax


    Shelby County Illinois voters are being asked to support a 1% sales tax increase referendum to help their school districts on the March 18, 2014 ballot.


    Area school districts are facing more budget cuts as the State of Illinois continues its trend to cut aid, which is used for educating students. Projects such as repairing and improving the county school buildings are not funded by state aid. For decades, these facility maintenance costs have been pushed down or removed from the list altogether.


    "From a distance, at first glance, the buildings look in good shape. But when you really look at them, you can see the deterioration happening.” said Dr. Kyle VonSchnase, superintendent and principal at Central A&M. “To maintain the buildings, we must take care of the outside first and work our way in.”


    If passed, the county sales tax will increase one penny for each dollar spent. This may sound small to consumers, but the positive effect on local schools would be massive, projected at generating nearly $1m in the first year alone.


    VonSchnase states that his district is at “bare bones” now. He has taken on both administrative positions in the district to help save money. Shelbyville Superintendent Denise Bence explains, “We’re trying to cut costs and cut costs without having to eliminate programs.” VonSchnase says, “All districts have to do more with less money without sacrificing student learning.”


    Other surrounding counties such as Douglas, Christian, Macon and Champaign counties have passed their sales tax referendums and as a result, their schools are benefiting on the 1% tax passed there through individuals who travel from smaller towns in Shelby County to shop for clothes and personal items in communities such as Decatur and Tuscola. Surrounding Moultrie and Effingham counties are also considering the tax at this time.


    Shelby County Board Chairman Bruce Canon reports that eight executive County Board members met this week and are "convinced this 1% sales tax is needed to support the schools."


    “It’s the fairest tax out there. Everyone contributes,” VonSchnase said. “People have told me they buy more locally because the money goes to help their schools.”


    A countywide group “Citizens for Shelby County Schools” has been taking a proactive approach to help get the word out about the tax. Local business owner and committee member Paul Van Duersen says, “A sales tax is a good, equitable way to pay for the school needs. It’s fair to everyone.”


    Voters should know that the 1% tax does not apply to unprepared food intended for home consumption (groceries), farm equipment parts and inputs like fertilizer and seed, etc. prescription & non-prescription medicines, drugs, medical supplies, personal property that is titled or registered (Cars, Trucks, Boats, Motorcycles, Trailers, Snowmobiles, RVs, Aircrafts, Etc.)


    The local tax will be collected in Shelby County and managed in Shelby County with the amounts from the sales tax in each school determined by the number of students from the district living in the community.

    The tax cannot be used for things like operating costs, utilities, supplies, salaries, benefits, buses, trucks, mowers etc., detached furniture and fixtures, computers and moveable equipment.


    VonSchnase said that Shelby County residents in his school district “now understand how the sales tax proceeds help” and he believes they will vote for the referendum. At Central A & M the funds will be used to tuck point the exteriors of the four buildings in the district. He also hopes to be able replace windows and heater units.


    Shelbyville schools have the high school heating system at the top of the priority list. The system dating back to 1949 has been repaired multiple times and wastes nearly $60k a year in estimated energy loss. Heat regulation in classrooms is not working and classroom windows remain opened during the day in sub-zero temperatures in an effort to bring the room heat to a tolerable level. “We are literally throwing money out the window,” said Bence. “The pipes are covered in asbestos and wrapped with duct tape. They have been patched over and over. Plus, if we lose heat and our water pipes freeze it will be disastrous.”


    Other districts are looking at building repairs and upgrades or paying off bonds already taken out for their buildings including Okaw Valley, Stewardson-Strasburg, Windsor, Cowden-Herrick, and Pana.


    Local business owner Brian Tucker further explains, “I was born and raised in several Shelby County Schools. All four of my parents were Shelby County teachers and administrators. Like many area residents, our entire family revolved around the local school system. I returned to Shelby County after 15 years living in Chicago primarily because I knew these schools were exactly what my three daughters needed. I think we take for granted that these schools are the pillar of the communities in our county and the future of our kids. Without good schools we will lose a lot of business, hope and pride.”


    Tucker also emphasized that Shelby County has a “strong advantage” through Lake Shelbyville tourism saying, “We have millions of people coming to our lake every year and every dollar they spend contributes to the 1%. We would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to leverage tourism for bettering our school facilities. It is one of the most overlooked and creative areas we have to generate revenue for our county. We need to progress in our thinking. Why not let them (tourists) help us?”


    Adding to this, local business owner Mark Shanks says, “It spreads the burden about as far and as fairly as possible, including to those who come to our community each summer to vacation and recreate. Our schools need to remain modern, up to date, and competitive with the surrounding communities, if we want good people to move to this community, raise their families here, support our schools and businesses, and keep our future bright.”


    The group has setup a website at scpublicshcools.com, a Facebook page and published a YouTube video to better inform the community about the 1%.


    “We need to get the word out any way we can. We need people to vote yes.” said Tucker in closing.

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