Sunday, March 29, 2009

1 percent sales tax a must 2-18-09 editorial

Here we are just 10 days from the end of February and already many of us are thinking about the elections that will take place on April 7. For some, the biggest concern is who will be on the Cornbelt Fire Protection District’s board of trustees. For others, it’s who will be elected to local government positions. However, there will be more at stake than just local officials.

Appearing on the ballot this April will be a familiar topic - one that saw a very slim margin of failure in the November elections: the one percent sales tax proposal.

Early indications following the November election cycle showed that all of the precincts in Mahomet voted against the proposal, which failed by approximately 300 votes.
However, that failure may not have been an educated one. Instead, many voters most likely approached the polling places with the impression that property taxes and all sales taxes on every item they purchase would be increasing, which is a valid reason for voting down a referendum.

That is why, when the polls once again open in April, it is imperative that voters understand that this proposal to increase sales tax, if passed, will do more than just raise a tax, which seems to be what most people see.

To dispel some of the misconceptions about this proposal, it will not, in fact, raise property taxes, nor will it apply to simple grocery items. Instead, it will apply to merchandise items and restaurant purchases, among other things.

Additionally, the money that is accrued by implementing this tax will be placed into a school improvement fund that will go towards updating and maintaining current school facilities, fixing things like doors and windows and allowing the schools to make necessary changes without going further into debt to do so.

The implementation of this proposal is the biggest issue that is being talked about. “How will raising taxes save money?’ Although it is a tax increase, it is an increase that will target establishments such as restaurants, merchandise shops and things of that nature.

For example, when there is a home basketball game at the University of Illinois, the area sees an influx of people who are coming into the area to spend money on food at restaurants before the game and at the basketball game itself. They spend money on clothing items or programs. They spend money on food after the game. A great deal of that money will go to assist our schools because of the sales tax proposal.

And what about the University of Illinois? With 40,000 extra residents each school year, there are yet more people making purchases at restaurants and bars and fan shops, etc, that will be benefiting the community with their presence, with the help of this tax proposal.

Finally, one of the biggest advantages to passing this proposal can be found by simply considering the current shape of our state government. We face a great financial deficit with the state budget currently at $9 billion in the red and the potential for it to grow exponentially over the coming years. It would almost be irresponsible of us as citizens to not pass something that would not only aid our schools, but would do so at a quicker pace than our own government could handle.

It’s easy to vote against something that doesn’t seem to have much upside for the community, but that is not the case with this proposal. Not only can it benefit property tax payers in the long run, it is ensuring that our schools have the funding they need to make updates to their facilities and can sustain necessary changes, as well as ensures that our children have positive learning environments for generations to come.

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