School sales tax issue on April ballot
At this year’s April 2 election, Union County voters will get the opportunity to decide on a ballot resolution to seek a 1 percent sales tax increase in Union County to be used exclusively for school facility purposes.
The increase would raise the Union County base sales tax from 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent.
The proposal was able to make it on to the 2019 ballot with the approval of at least 50 percent of the county school boards.
Funds from the initiative would be available to all seven of Union County’s public school districts.
Money raised from the tax could be used exclusively for the building or repair of school facilities. Projects available include the construction of new facilities, additions and renovations, roof repairs, fire prevention and safety additions.
Funds can also be used to refund bonds or abate property taxes levied to pay bonds issued for capital purposes.
“The quality of schools in a community are a major consideration when parents are deciding where to move their families to,” said Anna-Jonesboro Community High School District No. 81 superintendent Rob Wright.
“I also believe our students are just as deserving as our neighbors are in regards to having the best educational opportunities and experiences available to them.”
School expenses like operating costs or facility salaries cannot be funded by this program.
Several items would be excluded from the proposed sales tax increase, including cars, boats, RVs, mobile homes, over-the-counter medicine and vitamins, unprepared food and farm equipment. Services will also not be included, and items that are not currently taxed will remain untaxed.
The ordinance will pass with a simple majority of votes from the electorate. With approval by the voters, the tax will be levied. If passed, districts will receive funds monthly beginning roughly four months after going into effect.
“It is estimated that close to one million dollars would be generated through the tax that would be distributed among the seven Union County school districts based upon the enrollments numbers,” Wright said.
“This would enable the school districts to proceed with repairs or projects that have been put on hold due to a lack of resources.”
Proponents of the bill suggest that the passing of the ordinance can decrease property taxes by using sales tax funds to pay for facility projects that would have been paid for with property taxes.
A district can also choose to abate or decrease existing property taxes by using funds to pay off outstanding building bonds.
“Currently, property owners bear most of the burden when it comes to local revenues for schools,” Wright said.
“This would redistribute the burden across a wider range of people, including people from other counties that come here to shop.”
Several other counties in the area have passed similar county school facilities tax initiatives, including Jackson and Williamson counties.
“I can see how the 1 percent tax has transformed school facilities in neighboring counties when I visit for educational or extracurricular events”, Wright said.
Town Hall Meeting Planned
For voters who want to learn more about the proposal, a town hall meeting is scheduled for March 19 at 6 p.m. in the Anna-Jonesboro High School auditorium.
Superintendents from the school districts of Union County are scheduled to be on hand at the meeting to answer questions and give more detailed explanations of the plan and its effects if passed.
“As someone who lives in this community, graduated from this school, and currently has grandchildren attending local schools, I believe that there is no better investment than in our kids and that those investments will pay great dividends in the future,” Wright said.
“I challenge every voter to become informed on this issue and how it will impact them, and then decide for themselves whether it is a worthy endeavor or not.”