Stephenson County schools ask for a sales tax hike, again - – Rockford’s News Leader

Stephenson County schools ask for a sales tax hike, again

FREEPORT (WREX) - Schools in Stephenson County want an extra penny from every dollar you spend shopping. They put the measure on April's ballot.

Voters have rejected the idea once before in March 2014. Now, school districts are trying again for a sales tax hike hoping more information will help get the measure passed.

The sales tax is 6.75 percent in Stephenson County and 8 percent in the City of Freeport. The proposal is to raise those by 1 percent. A majority of the money would go to the Freeport School District at nearly $1.9 million per year. 

"For Freeport School District's case, it would be a tax swap," says Patrick McDermott, assistant superintendent of business of the Freeport School District. 

The Freeport School Board passed a resolution saying every dollar of the sales tax will go to pay off bonds already taken out to upgrade facilities. Freeport residents are already paying for those upgrades. If the sales tax passes, someone who owns a $100,000 house in Freeport will see savings of $150 a year on their property tax bill. 

"Everyone helps to pay, not just if I own a house am I paying a property tax to help fund a taxing body. Everyone who shops helps pay," McDermott says. 

Other districts in Stephenson County like Dakota plan a 50-50 split; half the money will go to property tax relief; the other half will be used to upgrade facilities. The district plans to fix plumbing, electrical, roofs, heating and air conditioning at the current buildings. 

"The state is cutting back a lot so schools have to be creative and think outside of the box about how we can create revenue for the schools," says Mike Schiffman, superintendent of the Dakota School District. 

McDermott says no matter what, Freeport Schools are allowed to levy taxes for facilities so this measure is just asking people to pay a little more upfront instead of at the end when their property taxes are due. 

"If I spent $5 to buy a $500 TV, $5 is a lot easier check to write than a big property tax bill," McDermott says. 

Groceries, medication, cars and farm supplies are all exempt from the 1 percent tax hike. Voters will decide on the measure next Tuesday.

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