Rock Island County Kids First campaign revs up efforts announces committee, web site and Iowa perspective

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The campaign to win voter approval of a key education funding initiative to improve school facilities picked up momentum in the new year by announcing its campaign committee, a new web site (www.kidsfirstil.org), and a supporter with a perspective from Iowa.

“We are pleased to announce the formation of a campaign committee that reflects support from every school district and region throughout Rock Island County,” said Tom Getz, Co-Chairman of the Rock Island County Kids First Campaign.

Quad Cities community leaders Mary Lagerblade and Tom Getz are co-chairs of the campaign effort aimed at winning approval of a referenda initiative that will boost the sales tax one percent to fund school facilities improvements and construction in Rock Island County.

Getz also announced the creation of a new web site designed solely to inform voters in Rock Island County about the Rock Island County Kids’ First Campaign and its issues. “We urge voters to visit our new web site at www.kidsfirstil.org to keep up to date on the progress of this campaign as we head toward the critical April 7th election,” Getz noted. “We want this to be a grassroots campaign involving concerned citizens who want to put schools and kids first in this county.”

If approved by a majority of voters on April 7, 2009, the sales tax revenue generated would be spent exclusively on school facility improvement projects (no dollars can be used for salaries or personnel costs). Items excluded from the one-percent sales tax increase would include groceries, cars, drugs, medical supplies, boats, recreational vehicles, farm equipment and parts.

Funds would be allocated on a student population formula by school district.  Estimates are that a one-percent increase in the sales tax would generate as much as $13 million a year for schools in Rock Island County, according to estimates provided by the office of the Rock Island County Treasurer.

Ken Koupal, regional vice president of U.S. Bank in the Quad Cities, is strongly committed to all communities in the Quad Cities. His bank has branches serving both Illinois and Iowa equally and Koupal is a strong advocate of the Rock Island County Kids First Campaign.

“Iowa-Quad Cities’ schools have benefited tremendously over the past decade since the sales tax increase for school construction measure passed,” Koupal said. “I believe that while the quality of teachers and education in both Illinois and Iowa are very high, I also believe that the school construction enhancements have given the Iowa side a competitive edge.”

“Educational opportunities on both sides of the river are good, but the quality of the learning facilities makes a big difference in preparing our kids for the difficult global economy ahead,” Koupal added. He called passage of the one-percent sales tax increase to fund school construction a “great and smart investment that will help better position schools and the children being educated for that global economy.”

Koupal also said new school construction and facilities improvements will attract new parents to schools in the Illinois-Quad Cities. “And when that happens,” said Koupal, “you will see a boost in new homes and new economic development” similar to what’s been happening in Scott County during the past decade.

Koupal said Illinois, like Iowa, faces the problem of having school buildings built several decades ago. “In Iowa, the sales tax-for-school construction referenda allowed school districts throughout Iowa to upgrade old facilities.  That’s what has to happen in Rock Island County, upgrading school facilities so that they are, for example, wired for new computers,” said Koupal.  

Tom Getz echoed Koupal’s comments when he pointed to a 2007 Des Moines Register article by Lynn Campbell. “The first paragraph of that article sums it all up, and I quote, `Iowans’ willingness to pay an extra penny per dollar in sales tax to build and renovate schools has changed the face of the state and generated more than $1 billion in construction in less than a decade,’” said Getz. “With support from voters in Illinois, the same positive thing could happen here in Rock Island County.”

The Rock Island County Kids First Campaign Steering Committee consists of: Rick Lasek, Coal Valley; Dwayne Trautman, East Moline; Deb Toppert, East Moline; Gary Westbrook, East Moline; Carol Miller, East Moline; Marty Coe, East Moline; Tracy Declerck, East Moline; Glynis Lowery, East Moline; Luis Puentes, East Moline; Katie & Kevin Thornborough, East Moline; Robert Keim, East Moline; Joe Jordan, Hampton; Pryce T. Boeye, Milan; Kathy Johnson, Milan; Deb & Tom Bracke, Moline; Ron Riggins, Moline; Jeff Nelson, Moline; John Omar Bradley, Moline; Tom Pasmore, Orion; Joanne Riedl, Port Byron; Craig Wainwright, Port Byron; Sue Golden, Rock Island; Lauren Boswell Loftin, Rock Island; Sarah Bohnsack, Taylor Ridge; Jeff Keller, Taylor Ridge and Tom Mueller, Taylor Ridge.