Rock Island County Schools React to Sales Tax Referendum Results

There are more questions than answers in area school districts today after voters failed to pass several sales tax increases that would pay for facility improvements.

On Tuesday, March 18th, 2014, voters in Rock Island County, Carroll County, Warren County, and Whiteside County all rejected 1% county sales tax referendums on their respective ballots.

In Rock Island County, 44% voted yes and 56% voted no.

On Wednesday, March 19th, 2014, we asked voters why they think the measure failed. Many say they believe a majority of people support the schools, but not as many support taxes.

“I wanted the school kids to get the money,” says Moline Resident, Ralph Horton. “I really did. I’m all for the kids, but I can see why it got defeated very easily.”

“They wonder where is the money going?” he adds. “Where’s all the gambling money that’s supposed to be going to the schools? Where is it? I would like to know myself.”

“They don’t trust government as much anymore and I think that raising taxes is not the answer,” says Rock Island Resident, Dick Whitfield. “It’s really not and I think people are saying that.”

That voice was apparent to Superintendents in Rock Island County, like Dr. David Moyer from the Moline School District.

“They get to vote, they exercise their right to vote, and they certainly spoke loud and clear,” he said.

“This was one opportunity locally for our community to say that they wanted to do something positive for the long term in the community and they chose a different path.”

Before the vote, Dr. Moyer told WQAD how they planned to use the tax. The list included installing air-conditioning at Moline High School, safety and security upgrades throughout the district, upgrades to the auditorium and pool at Moline High School, and improvements – including handicapped accessibility – at the Wharton Fieldhouse and Browning Field.

However, Dr. Moyer says that has now all changed.

“All of those things that we talked about are things that just are not going to happen in my lifetime,” he said.

Dr. Mike Oberhaus, Superintendent of the Rock Island-Milan School District said the same thing about his school district’s 10-year plan.

“That plan will basically be put on hold until such time that funding becomes available,” he said. “We will slowly try to do what we can with the minimal funding that we do have available in our general operating budget to try to do some capital improvements in our buildings, but it will be very diminished compared to what it could have been.”

Both Dr. Moyer and Dr. Oberhaus say the only place that funding comes from is another tax – property taxes. When asked if they will increase property taxes now that the 1% county sales tax has failed, they both said not at this time.

“The sales tax would have given an alternative revenue stream to pay for the long-term debt accumulated to do facility upgrades, so based on where we are today we will continue to rely on property taxes to pay for facilities, upkeep, and modernization,” says Dr. Oberhaus.

However, they also said that means installing things like air-conditioning or safety upgrade will take longer to do.

“We will try to slowly implement those security upgrades as time permits and funds allow, but it will be very difficult with the economic conditions in the state of Illinois,” says Dr. Oberhaus.

“I think Rock Island County schools are facing an uphill battle for the foreseeable future and we’re just going to have to do the best we can,” says Dr. Moyer.

Rock Island County Residents – Horton and Whitfield – say they agree, but before things can change on the local level, they both say it needs to change at the state level.

“When you say the word ‘politician,’ the first thing that comes into my mind is C-R-O-O-K – crook,” says Whitfield.

“Maybe if they could have more openness about where all these monies are going they’d be able to pass it easier,” says Horton.

Besides the 1% county sales tax referendum in Rock Island County, six other tax proposals in the Illinois Quad Cities were voted down on Tuesday, March 18th. For complete election results and more in-depth coverage, click here.

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