An idle comment during a recent school board meeting lead to District 117 looking back at what has transpired since the sales tax went into place.
Ten years ago this week, Morgan County voters were asked to consider a 1% sales tax increase on the March 2021 primary ballot as a way to pay for improvements to school facilities. The tax was eventually approved at the polls and the seeds of the Vision 117 Plan took root.
During this month’s regular school board meeting, District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek showed a video compilation of various presentations he gave ahead of the vote, explaining what the sales tax could mean for the area at the time. Ptacek says a comment in reference to that tax at a recent school board meeting spurred the look back at expectations set by the board a little more than a decade ago.
“I have to admit it was a little bit of a sore subject with me the night it was implied that we haven’t provided to the community what we promised we were going to provide to them with the sales tax. So I went back and I found all the YouTube videos, all the presentations that we did during the Vision 117 process, and multiple presentations I gave since then as we were going into the phases that reiterated that original statement. That the sales tax was only promised to raise twenty-four million dollars on a twenty-year bond, and we were done. We were going to do the middle school and that’s all we were going to be able to get from the sales tax until, as I say in the one video, till 2040.”
Early plans to build a new high school and move the jr. high into the existing high school building were scrapped prior to implementation of the plan, however, a great need for facility improvements weighed on the board at that time.
Ptacek says due to unforeseen factors including bond sales and increased revenue streams, District 117 has been able to update more facilities than anyone first anticipated when the sales tax was first proposed.
“Based upon different factors we were able to raise an extra ten million dollars, and then the online sales tax came and we were able to raise another twelve and a half million dollars, and then we had the ten million dollars in ESSR funds. That when you look at the full finished project from this phase three, we’re going to do about sixty-three to sixty-four million million dollars in construction. The middle school, Lincoln, South, Washington, Eisenhower, the Early Years School, and much more when the original commitment was just the middle school. So the sales tax absolutely needs to be viewed as an under-promise and incredibly over-deliver, not the other way around.”
At the time the sales tax was on the ballot, the newest building constructed in District 117 happened in the early ’70s with Eisenhower Elementary School, and the most recent major renovation dated back to 1982 when then Armstrong Jr. High was expanded into what is now Jacksonville High School.