By Jennifer Lane
Hardin County Independent
Only a small group of citizens attended the county-wide public meeting on Monday, March 7 to discuss the proposed 1% Facility Sales Tax to benefit the Hardin County School District. Citizens will be able to vote on this proposal at the March 15th primary election. Superintendent Dave Reavis presented the facts, urging citizens to say yes to this proposal explaining that the 1% Sales Tax is the answer to helping the school district financially to make much needed repairs to the school. He also reiterated multiple times that this tax will not contribute to teacher or school staff salaries or benefits — but only to help the school make much needed repairs and updates to the facility.
Reavis explained that the school is in great financial need — $450,000 in the red to be exact. He said right now the school is functioning on a month to month basis relying solely on payments of state funding. He said if the payment doesn’t come for some reason, the school would have to borrow to make payroll. He is hopeful that things will turn around within the next 4 1/2 years if citizens will vote for this tax.
Reavis presented a slide show of pictures taken of multiple areas of the school that show the significant wear and tear that has happened over the years. Pictures were shown of holes in walls, warped doors, paint peeling, water leaking, window seals broken causing condensation, electrical repair needs, ripped carpet held by duct tape, old carpet installed in the 1980s, side walks crumbling, cracked and broken asphalt, and many others. Over the years, the 30 year old sewage pumps, an $84,000 cost, have been “paper clipped” together by maintenance staff for just about as long as possible. Reavis explained it is going to have to be replaced soon. He also added that the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) units will soon be needing replacement. There are about ten and it would cost the district at least $25,000 per unit. He said, “The school is not neglected; we simply have not had funds to keep up with maintenance.”
Reavis explained that the school has received grant money to fix these things; however the stipulation is that the school must match the funds in order for the grant to pay. Reavis said he had to close a maintenance grant in the past month and send $84,000 back to the state because the school district did not have the funds to match the grant. In the future, if the district had funds generated by the 1% Sales Tax, they could match those grant funds and make repairs to the school.
The school has also received other grant money and donations by individuals and organizations, but Reavis said, these are earmarked to fund certain things requested by the donor. For example, the new gymnasium floor was made possible by a personal donation specifically for the gym floor. That donation money could not be used for anything other than the floor. Currently, a $3,000 grant was given to the basketball team by a donor, since the basketball team has a new floor and is in good shape, Reavis plans to contact the donor and ask if the funds could be used for the baseball and softball teams. Reavis said there is no frivolous spending going on.
Reavis explained that monies generated from a 1% Sales Tax can be used to make handicap renovations, building renovations, repairs to the building, replacement of things like the sewer pumps or the HVAC units, parking lot and asphalt repairs, etc. Security is another update that the tax can ensure. Currently, there are only a few security cameras in the building. If the security system was updated and supplemented, all areas of the school could be seen in the event of a school shooter or other emergency. New doors could be installed and re-keyed, as it is needed now.
The way the tax works is for every one dollar spent in the county, the school will get one cent. Items that will not be taxed are: medicine, boats, cars, trucks, farm equipment, and most non-processed grocery food items. If the tax is passed, Springfield will notify the businesses that it will affect.
Superintendent Reavis also made the point that when Hardin County citizens shop in Saline, Williamson, or White Counties, you are paying a 1% Tax that goes to benefit those counties’ schools. He said that about 47% of Hardin County’s sales come from tourists visiting Hardin County each year. If citizens vote for the proposed tax, the school district could gain an estimated $118,000 per year to make much needed repairs.
Reavis feels that he and the School Board are on the right track to make this school successful. He said, “We are in a time of financial warning. It’s time to pony up and come to the table. The 1% Sales Tax is truthfully what our district needs to survive.” Reavis said that at one time Hardin County School District was one of the richest school districts in southern Illinois. He and other audience members agreed that the school district cannot rely solely on state or federal funding and is going to have to learn to stand on its own two feet.