Carbondale businesses react to sales tax hike

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The business community in Carbondale is urging local businesses to go the extra mile and make the city a destination for shoppers, in an effort to combat potentially negative impacts of a sales tax hike approved by voters on Tuesday.

When the new Jackson County sales tax and a separate new Carbondale city tax go into effect, a plate of food bought in Carbondale isn't only taxed at one of the highest rates in southern Illinois, but one of the highest in the country.

Combined with the current sales tax of 8.75 percent, people eating in Carbondale would be billed at an effective tax rate of 11.75 percent.

According to a list compiled by an independent tax policy research organization, that rate outpaces the tax rate on meals in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

"We thought there would be enough anti-tax movement to defeat it" said Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Les O'Dell on Thursday. "Now, we essentially have to live with it."

"Times are tough for all of us, and we hear it from our customers all the time." Said New Kahala Chinese Cuisine Manager William Lo on Thursday. "This just adds to it."

The new county sales tax was proposed by Jackson County to pay for crumbling schools in surrounding communities such as Murphysboro, which is dealing with aging buildings, and a high school auditorium whose roof collapsed in August.

"We support our schools." O'Dell said. "We just didn't think this tax was the best way to fund the schools."

The next largest town in Jackson County when compared to Carbondale is less than one third as populous. Thus, it will generate far more school funding than its schools will receive from the new tax.

In fact, Carbondale's School District was not one of the school districts in support of the measure, according to O'Dell."

"Money comes into Carbondale and leaves… how is that fair?" Said Carbondale resident Blake Morrison. "People will still shop here but not as much… The tax will end up nullifying itself because it will chase enough people away that it won't make a difference."

While the Chamber warned the tax would drive business away, the chamber now says it's trying to make the best of it by striving to make local businesses worth the extra penny-on-the-dollar.

"I think we overcome higher taxes by just being a great place to do business, and be supportive of them." O'Dell said. "This is still a community where small businesses thrive."

"At first it will hit us pretty good." Lo said. but after people get used to it, I don't want to use that way to describe it a terrible way, but they'll come around."

The new tax takes effect throughout Jackson County on July 1st of next year.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.