OLNEY, Ill. (WTHI) - Richland county voters can say "yes" or "no" to a proposed one-percent sales tax. It would benefit the school district's efforts to renovate the high school.
This item is on the ballot for next week's election.
The superintendent says the $25 million proposal was created after a year of work including building assessments and community meetings. He says it is time to make significant changes to the high school but others are concerned about the long-term financial consequences.
Richland County High School was built in 1952. The superintendent says it has been well maintained but there are three areas in need of improvement.
The first is access. The school house has multiple floors but no elevator. Some students have to use a stair lift to get around.
The second is safety and security. The plan would reduce the number of entrances. There are more than thirty right now.
The third goal is creating a modern learning environment with updated classrooms and common areas.
Superintendent Larry Bussard says, "To build a new school, to kind of put it in perspective, we'd probably be looking in the $65 to $75 million range so that kind of helps put the perspective of a $25 million renovation."
He says the sales tax would generate $1.2 million a year and it would cover half the cost of the project. The district would restructure current debt and borrow more money at a later time to finish the project.
It's the idea of creating more debt that has some people voting no.
Tony Barber manages Bill's Machine. He says he is concerned the tax will be bad for business and he is worried about increased debt.
"We have to look it over, take another look at this thing. We want to take care of our kids. We want a nice place for them but we have to be financially responsible because we have to pay it, they have to pay it for many years to come."
If the measure is passed the renovation would happen over six or seven years.
If it fails the district would still have to make $7 million worth of changes to maintain the building.
Bussard says, "We can do that work but we'd probably have to restructure our debt. It may affect the property tax rate, it may not."
There is one last opportunity to learn more about the project. There is a public meeting Thursday at 6pm local time. It will be at the high school and people will be able to get a tour of the building.
For more information about the proposal, click here.