Jacksonville School District may have to take money from their education fund in the coming months to cover the payment for their school building funds. Morgan County residents passed a referendum in November 2014 for a countywide one-cent sales tax on every dollar spent in the county to help generate funds to cover what was then projected as an estimated $60 million worth of anticipated building improvements over the next 30 years for county schools.
The passage of the sales tax has helped fund the construction of Jacksonville Middle School, renovations at Lincoln Elementary, and most recently helped address building safety concerns at Washington Elementary. At the July school board meeting for District 117, Superintendent Steve Ptacek told the board that the sales tax was down by $40,000 in the month of June: “Well, if [the decline] is $40,000 a month and that stays relatively consistent, which I could see that happening. I think it might even be a little less of a loss in the next couple months because some things are starting to open back up. Even in this situation, you would be talking about a half million dollars a year. Once again, we did $32+ million worth of construction that we are getting for free with the sales tax that in a lot of the other bonding potentials we would have had to make a payment. If in the very beginning, you could have said that you could have gotten these 3 buildings done for $500,000 a year, would we have said yes? Absolutely, we would have said yes. So while we would love to have that money to spend elsewhere, I’m not going to second guess the construction projects we’ve had done for $500,000 a year, and that’s just the reality of what we are going to have to get through.”
Ptacek says that he hopes that the pandemic’s cutting back of business doesn’t persist or the lack of sales tax revenue will continue. Jacksonville School Board President Noel Beard said at the meeting, after doing rough figures prior to the meeting, he estimated that overall sales revenue is down in the county by nearly $4.5 million for the month of June.
District Treasurer Jamie Hadjan reassured the board at the meeting during the budget report that after adjusting numbers from the school year, the district is actually ahead by almost $2 million after receiving an early installment of property tax money from the county. Ptacek says that financially the district is stable despite current disruptions caused by COVID-19.