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Sales tax option may help schools

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By Dave Bell

Though we have to start from the premise that the last thing most people want is another tax, there may be some merit in studying the benefits of a countywide sales tax to benefit our schools.

The concept of a sales tax to provide funding for education is new in Illinois, but has been used successfully in several other states.

The difference between this proposal and other current school taxes is that under this plan, funds are generated by retail sales rather than the more traditional property taxes.

But even then, several categories of products are exempt including cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, motor homes, food, prescription drugs, and farm equipment and parts.

Last month, several members of the countys four school boards met to discuss the possibilities. No decisions were made, but all boards are studying the option.

Right now, were just evaluating it, said Rich Well, Vandalia Superintendent of Schools. Its part of our due diligence to investigate the opportunities.

He noted that the revenues generated by the higher sales tax could be used only for improvements to school facilities and to rectify Health, Life, Safety issues in school buildings. He also said that the revenues from the tax also could be used to retire existing construction bonds, thus lowering property taxes.

If the boards do opt to support the tax, it would have to be approved by county voters before it could go into effect.

Currently, the sales tax in Vandalia is 6.75 percent.

As of July 1, Chicago has the dubious distinction of having the highest sales tax in the nation a whopping 10.25 percent. Thats enough to send some shoppers across the Wisconsin border to do their shopping. By comparison, New York is 8.4 percent and Los Angeles is 8.25 percent.

Though unbridled growth in sales tax is unwise, giving this new revenue source some consideration is the right thing to do. Its fairer than property tax, and it spreads the load to outsiders, who purchase items in the county. Its worth a look.

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