School 1% sales tax on Ogle County ballot March 19

Almost 6,000 votes were cast in Jasper County for the 2023 election.

OREGONOgle County voters will decide whether school districts get funding from a new proposed 1% sales tax when they cast their ballots in the March 19 primary election.

How school districts would be allowed to use the funds specifically is laid out in the law and depends on the ballot language, Polo School District Superintendent Kelly Mandrell said.

The language on Ogle County’s ballots would allow schools to use the money for infrastructure-related expenses, school resource officers and mental health professionals, Mandrell said.

The tax would go on everything in the municipal and county tax base, except for cars, trucks, ATVs, boats, RVs, mobile homes, unprepared food, drugs including over-the-counter and vitamins, farm equipment and parts, farm inputs, services and anything not currently taxed, Mandrell said.

The question on the ballot will read: “Shall a retailers’ occupation tax and a service occupation tax (commonly referred to as a sales tax) be imposed in the County of Ogle, Illinois, at a rate of 1% to be used exclusively for school facility purposes, school resource officers and mental health professionals?”

A “yes” vote means a 1% sales tax will go into effect July 1 across Ogle County. The revenue will be distributed on a per-pupil basis among school districts who have Ogle County children enrolled as students.

A “no” vote means the tax will not go into effect.

How are funds distributed?

If passed, revenue from the 1% sales tax would go toward the following school districts: Oregon, Forrestville Valley, Polo, Kings, Creston, Rochelle Township High School, Rochelle Elementary, Meridian, Byron, Eswood, Eastland, Hiawatha, Dixon and Ashton-Franklin Center.

Eastland, Hiawatha, Dixon and Ashton-Franklin Center school districts primarily are located outside Ogle County but still will receive a portion of the funds because they have students enrolled who reside in Ogle County.

“The money goes with the student,” Mandrell said. “So if you have any student living in Ogle County but their district might be Eastland, the money follows the kids.”

Each district will receive a portion of the sales tax revenue equal to the percentage of Ogle County’s total student population enrolled in that district, she said.

Polo expects it would get about $301,000 from the sales tax revenue the first year, Mandrell said.

Forrestville Valley School District Superintendent Sheri Smith said that Forrestville Valley estimates it would receive about $287,000 the first year.

Oregon and Meridian both would receive about $700,000, said PJ Caposey, who currently is superintendent for Meridian School District 223 and was hired as the Oregon School District 220 superintendent for the start of the 2024-25 academic year.

What would the money go toward?

Polo would save the funds it got from the sales tax with the intention of putting it toward the district’s future facility needs, Mandrell said.

“We did a lot of renovations recently, and so it would be to help project for future purchases and future needs of the district when it comes to facilities,” she said.

If the proposition doesn’t pass, the district still will be able to handle costs that come up, Mandrell said.

Forrestville Valley’s first priority would be to continue providing mental health support for students, Smith said.

“As we continue to see that increasing as a need in our district, we want to continue to fund it,” Smith said. “From there, we’d look at ways to increase school safety and security, and facility upgrades and repairs we have ongoing in the cycle of the district.”

Smith pointed to the flooring of the Forreston Junior/Senior High School building as an example of needed infrastructure work. The building’s “new edition” is almost 25 years old, she said.

If the sales tax isn’t implemented, Forrestville Valley would have to draw from other district funds to help cover the costs of such things, Smith said.

Oregon would focus on facility improvements first, followed by adding school resource officers in each building to increase safety, Caposey said. The district’s third level of focus would be “face-lifts” to some of the school areas, such as the band/choir room’s staging area and some of the athletic fields, he said.

“This is something where it’d be really nice to have, but we’ve been operating without it forever,” Caposey said when asked whether Oregon would face any financial hardships if the proposition doesn’t pass. “We know how to do business without it. It just means the to-do list items would take longer to get through.”

Meridian’s most recent assessment revealed $39 million in repairs across four buildings, Caposey said. The money from the sales tax would help to offset the burden on taxpayers for those repairs, he said.

“It’s really important, I think, that people are educated and vote,” Caposey said. “I think it’d be a good service for the community and the kids. If it doesn’t pass, nothing really changes.”

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.