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Penny sales tax means dollars for Henry County schools

Illinois voters go to the polls on Tuesday, April 9. Several counties will decide whether to approve a one-cent sales tax to fund public schools.

It will only take a simple majority to pass in each county.

Geneseo parent Brad Toone wants a penny for your thoughts. With four kids attending Geneseo schools, he’s urging a “Yes” vote.

“We need to attract more people to come here, so the community can grow,” he said.

It promises to pump $900,000 into Geneseo schools each year. That will pay for improvements like security and safety issues.

A “Yes” vote could also give young musicians a better place to perform. The dated high school auditorium could give way to a performing arts center.

“Illinois is not paying and contributing to what schools need,” said Geneseo Middle School Principal Matt DeBaene.

The tax could also provide funding for stadium renovations and repairs.

The penny sales tax became successful in Iowa districts years ago. This is a chance for Illinois schools to shift some of the burden from property taxes.

More than a third of the money generated in Henry County would actually come from purchases by people outside the county. The tax would only apply to current items being taxed.

In Orion’s district of about 1,000 students, it’s money for the future. The tax could provide up to $300,000 yearly. It’s a chance to make improvements otherwise not possible.

“We’re proud of the quality education we offer,” said Orion Superintendent Dave Deets. “But that also means you need to have good facilities.”

But there’s a dilemma brewing at the Orion Auto Parts store. Owner Steve Begley remains undecided, even though his wife teaches in the district and his kids attended school there.

“Government doesn’t do a good job of running any business,” he said. “I’m just hesitant to give them more money to blow.”

Voters on April 9th will decide if those pennies will add up to dollars for local Illinois schools.

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