PEKIN — Tazewell County school district superintendents have hit the road the last several weeks, talking to everyone who will listen about the 1 percent county school facilities sales tax question that's on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Service clubs, fraternal organizations, school booster clubs and parent-teacher organizations, community sports groups and governmental bodies are among those who have heard the superintendents' presentations and had their questions answered.
"We want everyone to make an informed decision when they vote," said Dale Heidbreder, superintendent of the Central School District in Washington.
"I think we've saturated the area with our presentations, but we're still willing to go out if someone asks us," said Morton School District Superintendent Jeff Hill.
Tazewell County school districts have contributed to the information blitz with multiple social media posts.
A major reason for the publicity push is that Tazewell County voters soundly rejected school facilities sales tax questions in 2013 and 2016 without an extensive pre-election push.
Meanwhile, a school facilities sales tax is in place in 51 of 102 counties in Illinois, including Peoria, Woodford, Fulton, Mason and Logan, all of which share a border with Tazewell.
"Tazewell County residents who make taxable purchases in those neighboring counties help those schools. But their residents aren't helping our schools when they make taxable purchases in Tazewell County," Hill said.
Another fact noted by Tazewell County superintendents in their presentations is the estimate that 20 to 30 percent of taxable purchases made in Tazewell County are from shoppers who don't live in the county.
Those purchases would produce about $750,000 annually in school facilities sales tax revenue for Tazewell County school districts.
Only taxable items are subject to the school facilities sales tax. Groceries, over-the-counter and prescription medications, medical supplies, vehicles, farm equipment or parts, rent and mortgage are not taxed.
If it passes next month, the Tazewell County school facilities sales tax would go into effect July 1, 2019, and is estimated to initially generate $13.7 million annually for county public school districts.
Revenue would be dispersed to county school districts based on enrollment, at an estimated $656 per student.
For Morton, about $2.1 million annually would flow to a district that's looking at an estimated $19 million in facility repairs and maintenance costs over the next 15 years, according to Hill.
The Central School District would receive about $880,000 annually and District 52 about $600,000 annually of the estimated $2.9 million that would go to all of Washington's school districts.
Revenue from the school facilities sales tax can be used only for construction or renovation projects, or to help pay off bonds from completed projects, which lowers property taxes.
Sales tax revenue cannot be used for school district salaries, benefits, buses, furniture, fixtures, programs or any other operating expenses.
"The uses of school facilities sales tax revenue are very specific," Heidbreder said. "The uses are designed to keep school facilities up to date and improve security."
Each Tazewell County school board would decide how to use its district's school facilities sales tax revenue.
A few school boards have already announced their intentions, with the Morton School Board going beyond school facilities sales tax uses.
The board passed a resolution in September saying it would freeze the district's 2018 property tax levy (taxes payable in 2019) and use school facilities sales tax revenue for four years starting in 2020 to pay off bonds issued in 2015 for a voter-approved construction and renovation project.
For the owner of a home valued at $200,000, the Morton board's actions would mean about $200 less in property taxes for four years, then a savings of about $60 annually after that.
The property tax levy freeze would cost the district an estimated $700,000 in funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and almost $30 million in compounded funds over a 25-year span because Tazewell is a tax-capped county.
The school board for Washington Community High School adopted a policy this month to use at least 50 percent of school facilities sales tax revenue annually to pay off construction bonds, although the percentage would be discussed by the board every two years during the district's budget process.
The Pekin Public School District board has pledged to use school facilities sales tax revenue to improve traffic flow for the pickup and drop-off of students and add off-street parking at schools where space is available, according to a Facebook post.
A school facilities sales tax was created when a state law went into effect in 2007 and is based on a similar state law in Iowa.
The school facilities sales tax is on the ballot next month in Tazewell County because school boards representing more than half of the county's public school students voted to take that action.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.