Rock Island County "Kids First" campaign

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Questions and Answers

What school districts could be improved by the new investments?

Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, United Township, Silvis, Riverdale, Rockridge, Orion, Sherrard, Carbon Cliff/Barstow, Hampton

When is the voting?

April 7, 2009

Who can vote?

All eligible voters in Rock Island County

How was the referenda placed on the ballot?

First, school boards representing 50.1 percent of the students in Rock Island County passed resolutions in support of putting the referenda onto the April 7, 2009, ballot in Rock Island County.

In fact, all Rock Island County School district Boards of Education passed the correct resolution during November, 2008 unanimously.

Second, the Rock Island County Board adopted the resolution December 16, 2008, again unanimously, to have the referenda placed on the April 7, 2009, ballot in Rock Island County. 

Are any items excluded from this one percent sales tax?

Yes.  The following items will NOT be taxed:  groceries, cars, boats, recreational vehicles (any titled registered personal property), drugs, medical supplies, farm equipment and parts. 

Who benefits?

Children because they deserve to learn in the best classrooms and schools possible -- we need to improve how we prepare our kids for competing successfully in the global economy. Research shows that school facility improvements lead to enhanced learning and educational success.

School districts with long lists of unfinished capital improvements will be able to augment their construction budgets with valuable dollars generated by the new sales tax increase. That will take pressure off of their operating budgets and lessen pressure for school districts to attempt to increase property taxes.

Rock Island County with this new, progressive, forward-looking thinking and acting mindset will help attract new parents to Rock Island County schools.

Young professionals, because with these new investments in building educational excellence will attract new -- and retain existing -- young professionals who are concerned about the quality of the school district in which they are living.

The Quad Cities economy

Parents and businesses make choices about where to live and locate based on the quality of schools. Attracting new parents to Rock Island County will generate the need for new homes, which will create a positive ripple effect throughout the QC economy in terms of employment and revenue and quality of life.  In addition, when businesses are making decisions about where to move an existing business or where to start a new business they invariably take a hard look at the quality of schools in the area. If better schools retain or attract businesses, then the whole region and its economy will be the winner.

How much money would a one-cent increase in the sales tax generate to help improve school facilities in Rock Island County?

As much as $12 million per year, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue and Rock Island County Treasurer, Lu Ann Kerr.

Who will decide how to spend the school construction money?

Each school district will receive its fair share based on the certified enrollment as approved by Regional Superintendent of Schools, Joe Vermeire. Each school board will determine how their district's share is to be spent on new or remodeled facilities.

Will any of the sales tax revenue go toward teacher or administrative salaries?

Not a penny. All new funds generated must be used exclusively for school facility improvement projects. There is no question that Rock Island County, like many of the other 101 counties throughout Illinois, faces an aging fleet of school buildings and facilities. Any new dollars will be allocated toward school renovation and construction projects that are long overdue.

Will every school district, not just the large districts in the county, receive new dollars to improve their schools?

Yes. Every school district in Rock Island County, from the smallest to the largest, will receive new funds. There is a strict funding formula that allocates funds based on student population in each school district, under the assumption that districts with larger student populations have more school construction and improvement needs.  But the smallest school districts in Rock Island County will receive funds on an annual basis if this measure passes on April 7, 2009.

Every county in Iowa has had this sales tax hike for school construction plan in effect since the mid-1990s.

What has been the result?

Scott County (Davenport, Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley) have received more than $153 million dollars during a 10-year period and have invested that amount in school building and improvements. The contrast to Illinois Quad City Schools is startling.

"There is a renewed pride on our schools," said Mike Book, the Superintendent in Burlington, where voters approved the tax in 1999.  The district, with buildings constructed as early as 1891, has spent $27.9 million on two new elementary schools and paid for major renovations at two other schools."

Popularity of Iowa's local-option sales tax for schools has exploded since it was authorized by the Iowa Legislature in 1998. About 25 percent of Iowa's 4,000 public school buildings and additions were built in the first half of the 1900s; while at least 14 buildings dated from the 19th century (according to a 1997 Des Moines Register analysis).

"The local-option sales tax marked a dramatic shift for counties and school districts, which previously had to borrow money or raise property taxes to improve school buildings. Several of Iowa's century-old school buildings have been replaced with the money."

(Source: "Call grows for statewide sales tax to benefit schools," by Lynn Campbell, Des Moines Register, 2007)

What will be the local tax rates after a one percent increase is added?

Carbon Cliff   7.75%

Silvis         7.75%

East Moline    7.75%

Rock Island    8.00%

Moline         8.25%

How can I sign up to help this campaign? 

By calling (309) 762-5506