Good morning! Thank you for joining us in our chat about sales tax proposals in McLean County. We’ve been detailing the proposals in the Pantagraph with several articles in Sunday and Monday’s newspaper.
In summary, McLean County school districts are looking at a county-wide one cent sales tax increase to fund facility improvements and a community group, Citizens Advocating for Area Youth (CAAY), wants Bloomington and Normal to approve a quarter cent sales tax hike to build new soccer fields and a new community center that would house the YMCA. At the same time, Connect Transit is spreading the word that it wants more local funding to offset instability in state and federal funding sources.
We want to know what you think. Do you support any of these proposals?
Remember to keep it civil, so we can get everyone’s comments posted as quickly as possible.
Well, we're looking at a couple of different proposals right now.
The school districts are looking at a one percent sales tax increase, while CAAY (Citizens Advocating for Area Youth) are looking at a quarter cent sales tax increase.
Bloomington-Normal, at 7.75 percent, actually has a lower sales tax rate than many of its peer communities.
Property tax is a major revenue source for schools, but it's often discussed as a tax source that's very unpopular with the public.
The sales tax proposal thrown out by CAAY (Citizens Advocating for Area Youth) to fund a new community center and soccer complex has been discussed with the idea of a sunset, but the schools proposal has been criticized by a District 87 board member (Steve Perry) for having no end.
Traditionally when there has been a referendum for schools locally, it has been a property tax referendum. Yes property tax has been the current driver. The sales tax option is something new that has only been used in Illinois since about 2010.
All McLean County school districts would receive some revenue if a school facilities sales tax is put in place, but Unit 5 would see the most funding because it serves about 53 percent of the county's student population.
Aside from the lack of a sunset date, how do you feel about sales tax being used rather than property tax, Melissa? Is one source better or easier on taxpayers rather than another?
So far the site discussed for a new community center has been the current site of Great Escape, on the south side of Bloomington. The location has been controversial, and Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner has said the YMCA needs to stay downtown or on the city's west side.
Is there a county or town you would visit instead to make those large purchases?
What about Connect Transit? The public bus service here in the Twin Cities told the Pantagraph it isn't necessarily going to go for a sales tax increase, but it does want in on the conversation because it will need local funding soon. It's worried about instability at the state and federal level, the source of most of its operations funding. At the same time, the agency is seeing record usage as gas prices remain high. Do you use public transit? Is the agency doing the right thing by looking for local funding sources?
Good to know you want to know more. For those just joining us, we've been talking about a couple different sales tax proposals in McLean County - one for public school facilities and another for a community center and soccer complex.
Let's talk a little more about the soccer complex proposal. The idea grew out of the fact that soccer groups by 2018 will no longer be able to use airport property for their fields (due to tighter FAA restrictions). Is sales tax funding the right way to go to fill the need or is there a different approach you'd like community organizers to look at?