Shelbyville Daily Union

November 28, 2013

Shelby School Board seeks tax referendum

Valorie Eversole Daily Union Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union

---- — The Shelbyville School Board passed a resolution to try for a third time to propose a 1 percent sales tax on the March 18 ballot.

School districts in the county representing 51 percent of Shelby County students had to agree to the resolution to put it on the ballot. All districts, except Windsor, passed resolutions in recent weeks.

The resolution directs the Regional Superintendent of Schools to certify to the County Clerk the tax proposition to the voters on the March ballot.

Proceeds from the tax is to be used exclusively for school facility purposes. It cannot be used for salaries or operations.

Shelbyville School Board has designated its portion of the funds toward replacement of the 60-year-old steam heat system at the High School. Estimated cost of replacement is $2.5 to $3 million.

“We simply don’t have that kind of money in our operating funds,” Superintendent Denise Bence said.

The tax would come from sales of non-essential goods sold in the county, such as restaurant food, alcohol, clothing, fuel and other items currently covered by the state sales tax. Groceries, over-the counter and prescription medicines, cars, boats, and other licensed vehicles, farm equipment, parts and inputs are not taxed. Property owners would not be the sole bearers of the tax as sales tax is paid by everyone, including those visiting the lake area.

Bence said the Shelbyville School District is projected to receive approximately $390,000 per year for school facility purposes if the proposition passes.

Prior to the vote, Brad Halbrook, speaking as a business owner, voiced his disapproval of the tax stating that it would put his contract fencing business in a non-competitive position.

“I would have to pull money from my own pocket to get business,” he said. “Or I would have to pass the expense to my customers.” He estimated that it would cost him about $3,000 per year in extra taxes.

Halbrook said he did not believe the figures were going to be as high as projected.

“I’m not sure we’re going to get the bump from tourists that we think we are,” Halbrook said.

He suggested that the board should look salaries to save the district money and make funds more available for the projects. He cited a 50 percent increase in payroll in the district between 2001 and 2012.

“My friends and neighbors are taking freezes and pay cut,” Halbrook said. “I understand there are real needs. But the concern I have is every time there’s a need, you have to go to the taxpayer.”

Board member Scott West responded, “Our salaries are competitive with neighboring districts and throughout the state. Our teachers and administrators are the greatest assets we have. We educate students for less than other districts. They turn out a high quality product (educating our students).”

Board president and business owner Rob Bosgraaf said after the meeting that he did not see the added tax being a problem as people will pay what they are asked.

“People who shop out of town are already paying the additional sales tax for their schools. The counties around us already have the sales tax increase,” he said.

“We asked for the resolution. Now it is up to the voters to decide whether or not they will support the schools with this tax. We have a heating system that is over 60 years old, that is inefficient, and is throwing out money year after year. With the state situation, we have got to find new streams of revenue,” Bosgraaf said. “It’s up to the voters to decide.”