School leaders push to get sales tax increase on spring ballot

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - Each day Franklin County students and staff face several facilities problems at school. Some include outdated windows, an aging sewer system and over used lockers. But with the current budget problems in Illinois, school leaders don't expect improvement dollars anytime soon. That has educators now looking to local tax payers for help.

For the past 33 years Tim Ricci has been at the front of a West Frankfort High School class. Ricci says over the years he's watched problems with the building increase, despite a remodel.

"It is hard because you have the brick and you have students by the window, something they might want to pick on a bit off there," Ricci Said. "The pluming showing that's not good. The floor doesn't look right."

For decades bandages have been put on West Frankfort High School. They no longer stick. West Frankfort School District Maintenance Director Kevin Conaughty says big repairs needed and they're not cheap.

"Right now I've got a piece of plastic running down the inside of it, but it's just a temporary fix for a bad problem," Conaughty said.

Conaughty says over time the high school's drainage system rusted and massive caused water damage. At the same time he says the windows no longer keep moisture out.

"The moisture problem is working its way through the windows," Conaughty said.  "It's rotting out the wood and it's rotting out the plaster and everything as you can see."

The price tag to replace just the windows is more than $1 million.  But West Frankfort Superintendent Greg Goins says these days it's hard to get money from the state for such improvements.

Recently superintendents from across Franklin County took matters into their own hands. On Monday they presented the county board with a resolution for a 1 percent sales tax increase. Coins says if voters pass it, the district will have $2.4 million available annually for facility improvements and new construction.

"Illinois is in a situation in which financially they can no longer meet their obligations to school districts," Goins said.  "So this is a way for us to be self sufficient and provide some of the revenue we need to improve our facilities and we think that's important to improve the quality of education."

The Franklin County Board is expected to vote on the resolution at a meeting later this month. If approved, Franklin County voters could see a school facilities sale tax on the April ballot.

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