Wilhour favors structural reform over a penny sales tax to help fund education in Effingham County
Effingham is one of several Illinois counties considering a 1-cent sales tax in next month's election, but freshman Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) recently told a local newspaper that the state needs to do a better job funding school districts.
The reason the sales tax is hitting ballots next month is because the state has failed to adequately fund school districts, leaving property owners to shoulder the burden, Wilhour reportedly told the Effingham Daily News.
"We came here today to hear what the community leaders have to say about this," Wilhour was quoted in the newspaper March 1 following a First Friday luncheon hosted by the Effingham Chamber of Commerce. "I think it is important to point out that our schools here do a pretty good job – both educationally and fiscally. Effingham County does a good job keeping it relatively manageable."
Wilhour said there are other ways besides a sales tax to lower property taxes, according to the newspaper's report.
"I'd like to see these people talk about what kind of structural reforms can we do at the state level to lower property taxes and allow us to adequately fund education," he said.
Wilhour, an Illinois Army National Guard veteran and former Fayette County Board member and precinct committeeman, decisively won the Republican primary about a year ago against his opponent Laura Meyers of Greenville. Wilhour decisively defeated Effingham resident David Seiler in November to take the 107th State House District.
Wilhour's predecessor, Rep. John Cavaletto of Salem, announced in 2017 that he would not seek a sixth term in Springfield. Illinois' 107th State House District encompasses Bond, Fayette and Marion counties and parts of Clinton and Effingham counties.
The proposed sales tax would levy 1 cent for every dollar spent on qualifying retail purchases. Groceries, automobile and medicine purchases would be exempt from the tax. The resulting revenue from the 1-cent sales tax could be used only for improvements at existing school facilities or to retire new or current building bonds. The revenue could not be used for salaries, instructional materials or other school-district operating costs.
The 1-Cent Sales Tax measure, should it pass, would mark a shift away from funding local schools with property tax levies, but Effingham would not be especially unique in using a sales tax for school funding. Fifty-five Illinois counties already have a 1-cent sales tax, including Effingham County's immediate neighbors, Jasper, Shelby and Cumberland. Additional neighboring counties Fayette, Union and Tazwell also are expected to consider a similar measure during next month's election.
Wilhour apparently did not speak during the chamber gathering but administrators from Effingham Unit 40 and Teutopolis Unit 50 did, according to the local newspaper's coverage. Unit 40 Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox reportedly told the gathering that the 1-cent tax sales tax would address school facilities needs.
"It will also allow us to create safe environments," Fox was quoted in the news report. "In our society today, we need to go in and put in safe entrances, safe areas, secure vestibules, so when visitors come in they don't have to have open access to buildings."