As the Peoria District 150 school board begins tackling a $13.6-million deficit, its looking at ways to bring in more money.
The board heard three suggestions Monday from Chief Financial Officer Mark Wilcockson.
They included increasing property tax rates, urging voter approval of a County Facilities Sales Tax and issuing Health, Life and Safety Bonds.
Wilcockson says the District is currently taxing at the largest possible rate and to go higher would require a referendum. At the same time, the District’s tax rate is averaging 86 cents less per hundred dollars assessed valuation than many surrounding school districts.
Wilcockson says the reason for the difference is simple. “They, obviously, have had a referendum.”
Area voters heard about a County Facilities Sales Tax before. A proposed one percent sales tax to schools was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in March, 2014. It was estimated such a tax would generate $9-million a year for District 150 alone.
More than two-thirds of Peoria County voters said no to the proposed sales tax. Voters in Tazewell and Woodford Counties said no to a similar plan the year before.
The earliest the board could get the question in front of voters again would be the November, 2016 ballot.
Board member Rick Cloyd says that tells him the chances of getting that tax approved so soon would be slim.
“The school districts of the other two counties may be considered more satisfying to the public,” Cloyd said. “Yet the percentage of no votes was about the same as it was in Peoria County.”
Cloyd suggested the District approach the city about a possible half-cent increase in the sales tax within the City of Peoria to be allocated to the school district. The East Peoria City Council in 2005 approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase to be allocated within its four school districts.
Concerning Life, Health and Safety Bonds the board learned the District is approaching $10-million in school code violations that need immediate attention and $7-million that need attention within one year.
“The difference is the bonds would be completely paid by property owners within the Peoria school district,” Wilcockson explained, “while the County Facilities Sales Tax would be paid by not only Peoria residents, but also by visitors and others coming into the area.”
The board is expected to be presented with a proposed fiscal 2016 budget next month.
Monday’s meeting was the first regular board meeting for new board President Martha Ross and Acting Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat.