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Shelby County Voters to Decide on Sales Tax Increase
Shopping in Shelby County could soon have you reaching further into your wallet. Voters will decide whether or not to increase the county sales tax to help out local schools. In the past, it hasn’t been an easy sell for school districts.
"We tried in 2010 and then again in 2011. Both times it came pretty close right here in the area around Shelbyville, but out in the county voters basically voted it down," Denise Bence, superintendent of Shelbyville School District, said.
This time around, several Shelby County school district superintendents are working together to spread the word to voters that their schools desperately need the money. Those district officials recently made a plea to the county board for support.
"We just had an executive committee meeting this morning which comprises eight members of the board and I believe that that eight is convinced that this one percent sales tax is needed to support the schools," Shelby County Board Chairman Bruce Cannon said.
Voter support is still in question. Board members have heard concerns from voters who simply don't want to pay more taxes. Bence notes that this tax increase would spare a lot of essential items. For instance, groceries, medicine, farm equipment and titled or registered property like cars and boats are all exempt.
"If you start checking sales taxes in surrounding towns, it's not much cheaper, and if one cent is going to drive them out of town, then they're not looking for a bargain anyway because they can't drive to another town for a penny," business owner Jack Tynan said.
Tyanan, who owns a custom framing shop on Main Street, supports the increase. He has a son who teaches in Shelbyville and several grandkids in the district, so he’s seen firsthand how old the buildings are, and how many repairs are needed. Still, Cannon says other businesses are concerned the increase would hurt their business.
"I've also heard complaints it's going to affect propane sales. And unfortunately it will. However, if you burn propane or natural gas, your kids still go to school,” Cannon said.
The schools in Shelbyville have very dated heating systems. Even in the dead of winter, windows are wide open to let in cool air because the heat can only be on or off. That costs the district thousands in wasted energy costs, but the price tag to replace the school's heating system is around $3 million.
If the issue is voted down again, the Shelbyville School District does have other options. County officials say the school district can try another ballot issue that would only increase the sales tax for Shelbyville, where the issue has done well in the past. That would mean only Shelbyville schools would benefit.
The sales tax increase would generate about $1 million across the county annually. The Shelbyville school district will get about $390,000. Voters head to the polls next month to vote on the measure.
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