CLINTON — After serving as principal at Clinton High School for 18 years and at Blue Ridge High School in Farmer City for five years prior to that, Ron Conner says he has a true appreciation for education in DeWitt County.
“I have a deep love for both main towns in this county,” he said Thursday evening at a news conference called at Clinton High School to announce the formation of the 1 Cent Makes Sense Committee, which supports passage of the 1 percent sales tax in DeWitt County to support school facilities. “I had three kids go through this high school and I consider both Clinton and Blue Ridge to be my second family. It’s a no-brainer right now for the residents of this county to pass the sales tax to help our schools.”
Conner said the tax represents the first shift away from relying on property taxes for local school district funding in Illinois. A law passed in 2007 allows voters to approve a sales tax of up to 1 percent to fund school facility needs.
The question will be on the March 18 ballot in both DeWitt and McLean counties.
Jessica DeMarse, chairwoman of the Blue Ridge Parents In Education committee and mother to three, called the proposed sales tax a step in the right direction.
“It will help reform education funding which Illinois has struggled with recently,” she said. “Our schools and our education are the responsibility of all of us. With this tax, we all share the burden. It will cost only about $50 a year for the average consumer and it is spread out over 365 days.”
David Steward, vice president of the DeWitt County Farm Bureau, said the Farm Bureau has always supported education and supporting the sales tax is no exception.
“Over the years, the Farm Bureau has suggested various ways to pay for education other than with property taxes, and we believe this is a fair method,” he said. “It’s a minor step, but it is major in how it is approached.”
Conner said he intends to work hard to educate DeWitt County residents about the value of the sales tax, which would be distributed to district's based on their share of DeWitt COunty schoolchildren and would be used only for school facilities.
“I want to win this by a 4-to-1 margin,” Conner said. “That will tell everyone that DeWitt County considers education to be a top priority.”