Coles County School Facility Tax wins popular vote

Kalyn Hayslett, Editor-in-Chief

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The Coles County School Facility Tax referen­dum, which was presented on the ballot three times before, won the popular vote by 54.09% in the general election Tuesday night.

The unofficial count of votes according to the Coles County Clerk’s Office was 11,564 yes votes compared to the 9,816 ballots that opposed the referendum.

Todd Vilardo, assistant superintendent of Charleston schools, said there were three pivotal factors that contributed to the referendum being passed.

“First, it was a general election compared to the previous primary election; second, the public was more aware of the reduction in school finances provided by the state; and the Citizens for Coles County Schools worked hard to educate Coles County citizens on how the funds will be used,” he said.

The 1 percent sales tax will be applied to merchandise items in Coles County, and the revenue will be used for facility maintenance in local schools.

The amount of revenue will be dispersed to the schools in Charleston, Mattoon and Oakland based on student enrollment.

Charleston schools plan on using the money for facility repairs, and Mattoon schools will use the money to pay off facility-related debts and make facility repairs.

Vilardo said the revenue will be given to schools monthly, and the Charleston schools will use the money to repair and replace leaking roofs and the heating, venting and air conditioning system.

The lack of funding caused needed repairs to be overlooked, which affects the children’s learning quality, Vilardo said.

“Our kids deserve better than surviving. They deserve our best,” Vilardo said.

The sales tax revenue will be implemented at the start of the next tax cycle, which will begin in late October.

The projected annual revenue is $2.5 million for Mattoon, a little more than $2 million for Charleston and about $130,000 for Oakland school districts.

Vilardo said the sales tax would ensure that Coles County property taxes would remain intact.

“We will begin to prioritize facility needs with the sales tax revenue,” Vilardo said.

Matt Titus, a member of the Citizens for Coles County School’s steering committee, said the campaigning efforts were a team effort that demonstrated the power of communities coming together.

“There are so many people to thank and be proud of,” Titus said. “This is what happens when teamwork works.”

 

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]