In last week’s article titled “[District 203] School board acts to push proposed sales tax increase to April 2017 ballot” the Weekly highlighted my name as the board member who “voted against the measure”. The measure was to move the vote on the sales tax from the General election (Nov. 8, 2016) to the Consolidated election (Apr. 4, 2017). I didn’t think much of my vote being singled out in the article until I was contacted by a member of our community who asked why I voted “no” on this measure [to change the date of the vote] when I vote in favor of the sales tax increase initiative in a previous resolution.
While no board member had any comments on the subject at the time of the vote, I’d like to provide a little context to my vote since it seems it may present some confusion.
The community member’s question conflates two distinct issues; one of which was not being considered during this vote. The school board vote was to decide if the sales tax ballot date should be changed, not if we were in favor of the sales tax. As I explained to the young lady about the issue that was not being considered during the meeting, I am very much in favor of the sales tax initiative and think it has great potential benefits for our schools and our local taxpayers. With respect to the most recent school board vote, however, I am not in favor of changing the date of the vote on the sales tax initiative because changing the date to April 2017 will limit the number of voters (taxpayers) that will have visibility of this ballot, based on historical voter turnout data. One of the top two concerns I hear about our community is taxes—as a matter of fact, I just returned from lunch with my boss and he was discussing O’Fallon taxes…and he doesn’t even live here. As a steward of the community responsible for oversight of the execution of our resources, whenever amending taxes are part of the equation, I want the topic to be on as many ballots as possible when it comes to a vote. Especially, if I have to advocate for or defend my position.
Generally speaking, for a consolidated election, St Clair County can expect less than 20% turnout. For the Lease/Sell water issue in O’Fallon, we topped the normal turnout with approximately 25% turnout. On the other hand, general election turnout (even during mid-term election years) can triple the consolidated election turnout. Maximum turnout at the poles is why I was in favor of maintaining the scheduled date of the vote.
I’m sure I wouldn’t have objected if the initial vote schedule had been planned for the consolidated election, but to change it now is kind of like rescheduling Super Bowl LI to the opposing QB’s family vacation dates (Go Bengals!). Ideally, I’d like to see tax issues on the ballot when the community is at full strength. Especially this one, because I believe the sales tax initiative, as presented, adds value to the community, is an issue that can win, and will be thoughtfully leveraged by our community’s outstanding administrators in a way that will continue to strengthen this community’s position as one of the best in the state.