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Photo by Jordan Crook

Hoopeston had a good turnout for Tuesday’s primary election. Voters in Grant township precincts 1-6 cast their ballots at St. Anthony’s Parish Hall in Hoopeston.

Vermilion County voters voted down a second attempt to implement a one percent sales tax aimed at providing additional funding for Vermilion County schools during Tuesday’s primary election.

The County School Facility Occupation Tax, usually referred to as a sales tax, was first enacted in 2007 and was approved by Champaign County in 2009.

The first step in getting the sales tax on the ballot was taken a few months ago, when all but one of the Vermilion County boards of education approved passed a resolution placing the tax on the ballot for voter approval.

To get on the ballot, boards that represent more than 50 percent of the county’s student population needed to approve the resolution. The sales tax needed a simple majority to pass.

Revenue generated by the County Facility Sales Tax can only be spent on specific types of projects that include building repairs, facility improvements, safety and security, paying off debt assumed to improve facilities and hiring school resource officers and/or mental health providers. The money can’t be used for salary and benefit expenses for teachers/staff, pension contributions, computers and textbooks.

While a slight majority of Vermilion County voters outside of Danville voted to approve the tax, voters in Danville took a dim view of the proposal.

The tax proposal received 4,212 “yes” votes to 4,133 “no” among Vermilion County voters outside Danville. In Danville, the sales tax received 2,259 “no” votes while receiving 1,343 “yes” votes.

The total votes, tallying all Vermilion County votes, was 6,392 “no” votes to 5,555 “yes” votes.

One reason Danville voters may have been so opposed to the tax is that it would have brought their city’s sales tax up to 10.25 percent.

In the Hoopeston/Rossville area, results for the proposal were as follows:

- Grant 1: 54 yes-66 no

- Grant 2: 53 yes-57 no

- Grant 3: 52 yes-96 no

- Grant 4: 73 yes-70 no

- Grant 5: 87 yes-104 no

- Grant 6: 101 yes-108 no

- Ross 1: 86 yes-122 no

- Ross 2: 52 yes-51 no

- South Ross 1: 84 yes-103 no

- Butler 1: 91 yes-107 no

The results of the vote come as a disappointment to many Vermilion County school officials and teachers as the revenue generated by the tax would have enabled a variety of new projects while also allowing districts to pay down debt and, potentially, decrease property tax rates.

The Chronicle reached out to Hoopeston Area School District and Rossville-Alvin School District officials for comment on the results of the vote.

While Hoopeston Area Board of Education President Dave McFadden was disappointed the sales tax proposal failed this time, he’s hopeful for the future.

“While I’m disappointed for our kids and school district staff, I understand that it is not uncommon for a School Facility Tax question to appear on a ballot a few times before it passes,” he said.

McFadden feels that students and staff deserve a comfortable environment to learn and work in and he’s confident school districts in Vermilion County will continue to work towards that goal.

“Our kids deserve to receive a quality education, and our staff deserves to teach and work, in a comfortable environment, in great facilities,” he said. “I’m confident that the leaders of our county school districts will continue to work on their behalf. We owe it to them and to the property tax payers of our county to see this through to a

favorable outcome.”

McFadden expressed his appreciation to all the district employees and community members who advocated for the sales tax.

“I want to give a special thanks to the employees of our district, under the leadership of the Hoopeston Education Association, and all of the other community members, that committed so much of their personal time to this,” he said. “I look forward to the next time we are all able to work together for this great cause.”

Hoopeston Education Association President Dylan Swank also expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the election and feels that disinformation spread through paid political advertisements contributed to the failure to the proposal.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the final results,” he said. “This was an opportunity for Vermilion County residents to fund their students fairly, create safer and more efficient school buildings, and build stronger communities.”

At this month’s Hoopeston Area Board of Education meeting, Swank had detailed how misleading information had been published in a series of paid political advertisements that appeared in the Just the Facts publication.

Speaking after Tuesday’s vote, Swank said it was clear that misinformation had made an impact on the voters.

“It’s disappointing that misinformation won the day; while canvassing Saturday, it was clear that many voters were intentionally misled to believe that this tax would somehow inflate administrator or staff salaries,” he said.

Swank also felt that the recent concerns over COVID-13, also known as the Coronavirus, might have hindered voter turnout and skewed the results.

“I think we were hurt by turnout, too. When the CDC and the IDPH are both suggesting that folks stay home and avoid large crowds, I think the voter demographic you get is always going to be skewed,” he said.

Even though it didn’t turn out how he had hoped, Swank expressed his pride at the work Hoopeston Area staff and community members put in to advocating for the tax this year.

“That said, I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” he said. “We made a lot of strong, personal connections within our community and with voters — no small amount of whom still believe that a one percent sales tax is right for our students. We built a strong coalition of educators, parents, and other stakeholders who believed in our message and our goal. When the time is right, I’m sure we’ll revisit this proposition; it’s still the right thing to do for kids in Vermilion County.”