CHARLESTON -- An overwhelming swell of support in the city for the school facilities sales tax as well as some additional support in Mattoon was enough to change the voting tide in favor of the passage of the proposal. The item was defeated twice in past election primaries.
According to unofficial election totals, a majority of Charleston voters sided in favor of the additional 1-percent sales tax that was passed Tuesday in the general election. In every precinct in the city, a majority voted “yes” to the tax by wide margins in many precincts like in precincts 14, 15, 16 and 17.
This was not the case last time when the question was brought to voters back in March 2014 . Only half of the Charleston precincts voted in support of the tax at the time as opposed to the full 19 this year.
The referendum also passed in Mattoon precinct 6, only by slim margins with 51 percent in support, as opposed to last time. Lafayette precincts one and two, which poll in Mattoon, also switched from the previous attempt.
Other more rural areas in the county still denied the tax, but this time, it was by slimmer margins. Only in the Pleasant Grove precinct did support for the tax dip below 40 percent. However, the Pleasant Grove precinct had the second highest turnout of voters in the county with 745 total votes, 463 of which voted against the tax.
According to the unofficial results, those in support did not lose majority support in any precinct but gained some including also the Ashmore and Seven Hickory precinct.
In total, this year’s proposal saw 28 out of the 44 precincts vote in favor of the tax, a stark difference from the 14 that were in support during the last go-around. In terms of votes, 11,564 in the county voted for it while 9816 voted against it.
Proponents of the tax have attributed its success to voters looking further into the details of the tax as well as the larger turnout seen in general elections.
The money received from the tax will be disbursed based on student enrollment. According to the school districts, Mattoon schools would get an estimated $2.5 million in sales tax revenue annually; Charleston schools, an estimated $2.05 million; and Oakland schools, an estimated $118,252.
The referendum allows schools the ability to pull from another revenue source of which they had not been able to pull from before. However, according to state statute, the sales tax referendum could only be used for school facility purposes.
The additional 1-percent tax would be attached to the current 6.75 percent sales tax rate on general merchandise in the county, which would be an approximately 14.8 percent increase in the sales tax.