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Weighing the pros and cons

School districts still ‘in the education phase right now’ regarding sales tax proposal

At the shared services committee meeting Wednesday, representatives from Morris Community Schools said their school boards are educating themselves on the School Facilities Sales Tax.

“It’s just in the education phase right now,” said Morris Community High School Dist. 101 Superintendent Pat Halloran. “The board is interested in the pros and cons anytime you’re talking about a tax.”

The meeting, held at the Morris Community High School Board Room, also included an update on the shared busing system, which takes effect in the fall.

The discussion on the sales tax, proposed to area school boards in May was held to determine where each of the boards stands on the issue.

Dist. 101, which discussed it at the last board meeting, is still educating itself on the issue and is looking forward to a possible forum by the Grundy Economic Development Council.

“The more you delve into it, the more complicated it becomes,” noted Board President Dennis Best.

Kathy Perry, superintendent of Saratoga Elementary Dist. 60C, said preliminary discussions at her board’s meetings have suggested some support from members.

“The Saratoga board has initially been supportive of this,” Perry said.

Saratoga Elementary School needs a new cafeteria, she said, and the additional 1 percent sales tax could be a way to get it without relying too heavily on property taxes.

Teri Shaw, superintendent of Morris Elementary Dist. 54, said her district would primarily use the funds to abate building bonds, but remains uncertain on its stance.

“The conversations we’ve had at the board level have been educational,” Shaw said.

The sales tax would only be applied to already taxed items and could be used for building costs.

Proponents say it could help bring revenue to schools while lessening the burden on tax payers. Critics worry about the possible effects an added sales tax would have on local businesses.

To get the measure on the ballot for the March 2014 election, school boards representing more than 50 percent of county students would have to pass a resolution by the end of the year.

The shared services committee could be useful if the districts decide to move forward with the measure, Shaw said.

“It would need to be a joint effort,” Shaw said.

In other business, Perry updated the committee on the shared busing program that will take effect in fall.

Perry said she and Bus Dispatcher Vicki Valentine, who was in attendance, have hired 18 bus drivers, ordered 13 buses and are in the process of testing routing software.

“Really, it’s getting down to the nuts and bolts,” said Perry.

The three districts decided to share busing as a cost-saving measure.

Perry estimated the districts will save at least $300,000.

“This will offset some of the pain in the [districts’] education funds,” Perry said.

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