Taxpayers can find some hope for having faith in local government in the air this holiday season.
Mattoon school district leaders this week did just what they said they would do if voters approved a 1-percent sales tax for school facilities in November: They cut their request for property tax revenue.
As JG-TC staff writer Jarad Jarmon reported, school board President Michelle Skinlo was proud to point out that fact at Tuesday's meeting.
“Our word is good," she said. "If I had a microphone, I would drop it.”
The school district's portion of Mattoon property owners' taxes is expected to dip after the board approved a levy request of $13.9 million versus $15.6 million for which they might have asked. The difference is that the future sales tax revenue coming in will help cover bond payments for Williams and Riddle elementary schools, so the levy does not seek money for those costs.
The sales tax measure approved by voters -- and supported by this Editorial Board -- is designated for facilities only, allowing the Mattoon district to make its move this week. The other two school districts in the county -- Charleston and Oakland -- plan to use the sales tax revenue for building improvements and repairs, and to pay down debt, respectively. The sales tax goes into effect July 1, the beginning of the state's fiscal year.
Mattoon school leaders did note that although the district's portion of property taxes will drop, property owners may not see an overall cut in their taxes due to other taxing bodies' requests, separate from the school district's portion of a property tax bill.
But this is good news for Mattoon school district property owners. It's rare that property taxes -- or any taxes -- actually are reduced. This is an occasion to appreciate.
Via this sales tax, out-of-towners will help pay for Coles County school facilities, newer and older, and the upkeep of them. Anyone shopping for certain goods here -- with items such as food being exceptions -- will contribute to the sales tax revenue that benefits our schools.
Most area counties already are seeing their school districts benefit from such a sales tax. It's good that Coles County is finally on board with this revenue source for education.
Hats off to the Mattoon school board for keeping its word. It's good to be able to curb common skepticism in government just a bit. Although it shouldn't be rare, it is uncommon to see a governmental body do with tax revenue exactly as they say they will.
Mattoon school leaders made a promise, and they kept it.
Mic drop, indeed.
-- JG-TC Editorial Board