PEORIA — Voters in Peoria County are likely to be asked this fall whether to raise the sales tax one-half percentage point to finance the bulk of about $69 million in road repairs over the next 12 years.
After that time, the tax would go away — though board members have the chance to eliminate the tax sooner if tax revenue is enough to pay off the debt earlier.
The County Board's executive committee unanimously approved the proposal Tuesday after grappling with its terms over the past several months.
In that time, members have discussed the risk of declining sales tax revenues, weighed the virtues of quarter-percent and half-percent proposals, considered the importance of a public outreach campaign, and fretted over the solid thumping a similar referendum received in 2016. Some 55.4 percent of voters opposed that year's effort.
Even at their meeting, some board members stressed the need to advocate for the tax — which is for a higher rate than the quarter-percent proposed in 2016, but for a shorter time-span — with voters in a different way.
"We've got to change the approach from last time," board member Jim Fennell said, noting that few people showed up to the community informational meetings put on by the county government, which cannot advocate for the measure directly, but rather only provide information.
"We have to go to the organizations (service groups, including Rotary and Kiwanis clubs) and take it to them," he said. "These are the same people to get off their butts and vote."
Board member Allen Mayer supported the proposal, but said he'd have preferred a lower rate as more likely to pass muster with voters, though for an unlimited term.
"We're not getting out of the business," he said. "I don't know why we're sun-setting it."
County staff members have identified close to $200 million of work on county-maintained roads that needs to be done, and in coming months they'll discuss which county roads within the city of Peoria, within unincorporated areas and within other county communities will be on the list for fixes if the proposal passes. The board will have to decide whether to give priority to municipal roads — which, when fixed, revert to control of and maintenance by the city — or to rural county roads, or to base repair priority solely upon the survey of pavement conditions.
The full board is expected to take up the referendum question at its June 14 meeting. If approved, it would appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.