The Springfield public school board is on the hunt for more revenue. The latest idea is actually one that was tried before. Board vice president Adam Lopez says the district should push again for a one percent sales tax hike. While a parent's group wants a property tax referendum, Board President Chuck Flamini says raising the SALES tax would mean tourists and others coming in to the area to shop would contribute.
“Here’s the deal - we are a regional shopping area for downstate and mid-state Illinois," Flamini said. "People come from all over the place. That tax burden will be shared by those coming in.”
Back in 2010, an effort to raise the sales tax for school construction needs failed. State law requires this type of referendum to be county wide. That means all districts in the county would benefit. But it also means voters throughout Sangamon County would need to approve it. Most general merchandise would be subject to the higher tax, although food and medications would not.
A parent group is also pushing for a referendum that would increase the property tax. Katharine Eastvold is with that group, called “Invest in 186”. Eastvold, who narrowly lost election to the board this year, says the sales-tax being proposed is an inferior option:
“The county-wide penny sales tax, which again was tried in 2010 and it failed - can only be used for facilities - for buildings. And we believe that while the district does have facility needs - the urgent need... is just to keep the lights on in the classrooms we already have, to keep teachers, to keep class sizes low,” Eastvold said.
District 186 is looking to close a deficit of about 6 million dollars. Among the potential cuts, consolidating schools and reducing the high school schedule from 7 periods to 6, which would save money by hiring fewer teachers. At its next meeting, the board is expected to discuss both the sales tax and property tax plans.