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Local Editorials

Our view: Sales tax for schools? Property tax cut must be guaranteed

You know it and we know it: Kendall County property taxes are too darn high. To make matters worse, most folks will likely see yet another increase when they receive their new tax bills next spring, continuing a trend for higher bills that has gone on for decades.

For example, county records show a decade ago the owner of a typical local home on Wolverine Drive in Oswego’s Fox Chase subdivision received a property tax bill of $5,838. Today, 10 years and one major recession later, the tax bill on that same home is just over $6,300, even though the net taxable value of the home has fallen from more than $78,000 a decade ago to $60,649 for this year’s tax bills.

This past week, the School District 308 Board of Education heard a presentation from a financial consultant on a potential new tax that – if approved by Kendall County voters in a referendum – would allow SD308 and other school districts serving Kendall County to, for the first time ever, levy a sales tax up of up 1 percent to generate revenues to pay for school construction, maintenance projects or to pay for previously sold bonds. The tax revenues cannot be used to pay for teacher or administrator salaries.

State lawmakers enacted legislation creating the County School Facilities Tax a decade ago. As of this past year voters in 47 counties have authorized their local school district to levy the tax by passing referendums, while another 24 have rejected the tax. Interestingly, Cook County and none of Chicago’s collar counties have adopted the tax.

SD308 which is facing some significant budget challenges could certainly benefit from a new source of revenue. However, we believe the district would face an extremely tough sell in attempting to secure passage of a referendum to implement the tax without a guaranteed and significant reduction in the district’s portion of local property tax bills. Voters would rightly be wary that the tax would be levied and they would see no immediate or sustained property tax relief.

For decades, proponents of school funding reform in Springfield have discussed the possibility of transferring the primary source of local school funding from the property tax to the more equitable income tax. But those efforts have always been dashed upon the political rocks, with opponents arguing that taxpayers could not be assured their property taxes would be reduced after income taxes were raised. The same rule applies with the County School Facilities Tax.

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