With a looming one-billion dollar state budget shortfall, some school districts are taking matters into their own hands. Pottawatomie County voters are considering a half-cent sales tax to help fund schools. The unusual proposition is on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
As school budgets started shrinking several years ago, replacing Tecumseh's aging bus fleet got put on the backburner to keep teachers in the classroom. Building maintenance and a host of other areas also suffered. So Superintendent Tom Wilsie started looking for solutions.
“We just felt like this was our option to try and make a difference,” said Wilsie.
Wilsie and other superintendents came up with a proposed half-cent sales tax increase for the next 10 years that would go toward capital improvements for all the schools in the county, much like MAPS for KIDS in Oklahoma City.
“That was really the idea that sparked the whole project for us,” said Wilsie. “Just looking at what MAPS for kids did and what their focus was.”
The proposed tax would raise an estimated $3.8 million a year, or about $286 a student.
The county's largest district, Shawnee, would get about $1.1 million a year. The smallest, Wanette, would get an estimated $58,000. It would be up to each district to decide how to spend the money. It can’t be used for salaries and the county commission would have to approve the expenditures.
Tecumseh would get about $650,000 a year. Wilsie says he thinks they would use the money to catch up on maintenance on their facilities, update technology and of course replace some of those aging busses.
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation also has a proposal before their governing body that would match the sales tax and gift it to the county for education.
“CPN depends on the schools to develop our future employees and leaders and believe that this increased funding will be a valuable investment in our future and the future of Pottawatomie County,” said Tribal Leader John Barrett.
Both the Tribal Chairman and Vice Chairman support the gift and believe they have support in the tribal legislature.