School Boards Seeking Information on Possible Building Referendum

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Published on April 28 2012 6:21 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Wayne Moran

Teutopolis Superintendent Bill Fritcher said his school board is "gathering information" on a possible county-wide school building referendum.

Fritcher reminds that his district is working with a 1929 high school building, and said his board "wanted more information".  A representative of a firm that assists school districts with bond referendums and other means of financing construction projects spoke to the Teutopolis board at this week's meeting.

Fritcher said, "We're just looking at options; there's no imminent ballot question at this point."  He said a ballot question at the November election is "highly unlikely".  

Fritcher said the building referendum is of interest since revenue generated from a successful referendum could be used to pay off existing building bonds and reduce property taxes.

Fritcher said other districts had been invited to send along representatives to their meeting Monday, but said no others were in attendance.

If there is a ballot question at some point, it would be a county-wide referendum, since State law requires that the initiative must be sought by school boards representing a majority of students in the county.

Such an initiative would have to include the Effingham Unit 40 School District, since 52% of the student population in the county attends Unit 40 schools.

Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said no effort would proceed unless a need is clearly identified.  The Board would then discuss how to get the funding to address the need.  Doan said, "We'll decide over the next six months to a year if there is a need, then we'll decide how to proceed."

The Unit 40 building most discussed is Effingham Junior High School.  Doan said the building is structurally sound, but said there are electrical and plumbing needs to be addressed.

The tax would be for up to one cent on sales of most commodities in the county, although vehicles, farm machinery, grocery store food items and prescription medication would be exempt.

Regarding the tax, Doan said, "Effingham County is made for it, due to the number of people who stop here to eat or stay here."  He also said local property owners would have to do a lot of buying to equal the amount of potential savings if their property taxes were reduced, so they should see savings.

The countywide referendum has seen mixed results; the measure passed in Williamson County and led to some major construction in the Marion school district.  It also passed in Lawrence County and led to the construction of a high school building in Lawrenceville.  The measure failed in recent years, though, in Shelby and Fayette counties.