Franklin Co., IL residents to vote on sales tax increase to pay for new courthouse

FRANKLIN COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The election season for Franklin County is approaching, but what's on the ballot is stirring up much controversy among residents.

On Tuesday, voters in Franklin County will vote YES or NO for the local sales tax to pay for a new courthouse.

The proposition includes a one percent sales tax to retail businesses for the construction of the county courthouse, and people are speaking out.

"We really need a new courthouse," said county board member, David Ray.

The courthouse was constructed in 1875, according to Ray, back when there wasn't running water, electricity or even telephone poles.

"This building is just not adequate anymore...It costs more and more each day to maintain this building just because of its age. It's not an option," said Ray.

Walking through the building, you can hear the floorboard creek, and Ray points out what he calls outdated wiring. He also mentioned the bad plumbing, expensive elevator maintenance and A/C, lack of fire code check ups, and even the lack of insulation.

"I haven't asked one soul to vote this…I show them the building. Let them decide. I don't think I've lost a vote yet after they have looked at the building," said Ray.

Kevin Edwards, a local business owner in Benton, agrees the building needs work - but not at the expense of the local businesses.

"I'm against raising the sales tax. It would be the highest in the area...It would absolutely affect my business dramatically... It would not be good," said Edwards.

Edwards suggest the board could consider other alternatives like government funding to preserve the courthouse.

"How many years can a court house stand and be used. Is the court so bad it's going to fall down in the next 12 months, two years, five years, ten years?" said Edwards.

Another local business owner of higher price products says, "If you raise your taxes and spend no effort making incentives for consumers to come to the area and for business to thrive that is a bad combination as well." The higher price the product, they argue, the higher the tax.

"Where do you draw the line? I think we are there. I really do," said Ray.

"This sales tax is the fairest and easiest for the people to absorb and very minimal affect on the family. Overall I do not think the sales tax will drastically affect businesses," said Randall Crocker, chair of the board.

There are 36 local precincts to vote on Tuesday, or go to the Election office on 200 W. Main St in Benton early voting Saturday and Monday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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