Peoria County voters say no to sales tax increase

Scott Hilyard GateHouse Media Illinois

The vote was unambiguous. Peoria County voters soundly rejected a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase that would have raised money for local school districts to improve facilities.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in the vote,” said Chad Wagner, the superintendent of Oak Grove School District 68, who also is a Chillicothe resident. “The current sales tax rate in (the city of) Peoria obviously put pressure on the voters, although representatives of the 18 school districts in Peoria County thought this was a much fairer way to collect these revenues.”

The referendum failed with 6,730 votes in support of the sales tax increase and 13,235 opposed; or 66 percent to 34 percent. The measure fared only slightly better in the county (losing 61 percent to 39 percent) than in the city (29 percent to 71 percent). It lost without any organized voice or campaign of opposition.

In Chillicothe Township’s 10 precincts, which include voters within the city and outside its limits, the unofficial results were 595 against and 425 for the measure. While it still would not have passed, Chillicotheans were slightly more favorable with 42 percent of voters for the increase and 58 percent against.

That number, however, is not representative of all of IVC District 321. Parts of Medina and Hallock townships are within the school boundaries. The results were not available by school district as the referendum had to pass countywide.

Hallock voters were more favorable, with totals of 137 yes and 114 no, but that may have had to do with some of those residents being in the Princeville school district. Voters there were also deciding on building another school.

Medina Township voters voted against the referendum 73 percent.

The increase would have increased the base rate in Peoria to 9.25 percent, among the highest in the state.

Chillicothe’s rate would have been 8.25 percent within the city.

The sales tax was projected to raise about $9 million for Peoria District 150, $1.4 million for Illinois Valley Central District 321 down to about $90,000 in the Hollis school district. The money could be used only for school improvements, not for salaries or other expenses.

Before March 18, the school facilities sales tax referenda had appeared on county ballots 59 times in Illinois since 2008 and had only passed 17 times, or 29 percent of the time. Voters in Tazewell and Woodford counties defeated the same measure last year.

While school districts weren’t exactly counting the money in advance, many did have specific plans to spend the revenues generated by the increase in the sales tax.

“We believe the students are not getting their fair share of the pie,” Wagner said. “They aren’t getting a chance to be represented in the revenue equation.”

— Chillicothe Times-Bulletin Editor Marianne Gillespie contributed to this story.