March 9, 2014 by Drew Meiner
McLean County voters have to decide whether or not they support a new 1% sales tax when they go to the polls, March 18th. Tucked away on the back side of the March primary ballot is a proposition that reads,
“Shall a retailers’ occupation tax and a service occupation tax (commonly referred to as a “sales tax”) be imposed in the County of McLean, Illinois, at a rate of 1% to be used exclusively for school facility purposes?”
Voters are given a choice of yes or no.
The sales tax, which must be used exclusively for school facility costs, is usually pushed as a way to avoid raising property tax levies. However, not once do it’s advocates mention reducing property taxes or even freezing them. Instead, they are pushing a new burden on taxpayers without any other relief.
The new tax would benefit 13 school districts – some, more than others. Distribution of the anticipated $16 million in sales tax revenue would be allocated based on student enrollment.McLean County Unit District 5 stands to receive the greatest windfall from the new tax. With nearly 14,000 students, Unit 5 anticipates receiving $9.4 million in the first year. Bloomington School District 87 would be the second greatest beneficiary of the tax with an anticipated $4 million allocation. The money received by these two school districts would represent over 83% of the total funds generated by the new sales tax. None of the other 11 districts would receive more than $680,000 under the proposition.
McLean County Sales Tax Referendum, a political committee registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections was established February 3 with the stated purpose: To support the school facility occupation tax referendum in McLean County, IL on March 18, 2014. The group started with $5,300 and has raised $31,747.32 in large dollar contribution since its inception.
Who might donate to a cause advocating to impose a sales tax?
The people who stand to benefit from it, that’s who.
The list of contributors is littered with architects, engineers, and other builders and contractors. Here is a list of some of the large dollar donations and the contracts those companies have previously gotten from the district:
|Union Roofing Company
|Mid-Illinois Mechanical Inc.|
|Donation to pro-referendum PAC||$2,000 – Jan 15||$1,000 – Feb. 12|
|Contract with Unit 5 Schools||$611,490 – 2013
$459,800 – 2009
$582,400 – 2009
|$517,900 – 2009|
Those are some pretty good returns on investments. The people pushing for a sales tax are predominantly those who hope to win contracts that will be paid out of the $16 million in anticipated revenue.
Here are a few other large donations to the McLean County Sales Tax Referendum:
|Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus||$1,000 – Feb 3|
|Unit 5 Education Association||$3,500 – Feb 12|
|Prairieland Piece Parent Group||$2,747.32 – Inkind|
Prairieland Piece Parent Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that earned that designation from the IRS because they receive a substantial portion of their funding from a governmental unit or the general public. This is a huge conflict of interest and potentially illegal. It is the same pay to play politics that has bankrupted Illinois and earned us the reputation of being the most broke and most crooked state in the Union.
The two drivers of the referendum, Unit 5 and District 87, are attempting to take advantage of the taxpayers in McLean County. Not only have they continually raised property taxes year after year, they are now pursuing yet another revenue stream. Gary Niehaus makes almost $214,000 a year and is set to retire with a very generous, taxpayer-funded pension. Perhaps instead of pursuing additional revenue, Niehaus and Unit 5 should start focusing on doing more with less like the residents of McLean County have been forced to do.
Champion News recommends a No vote on the McLean County Sales Tax Referendum.