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School-related issues addressed

Published: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 2:27 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 2:29 p.m. CDT

As the chairman of the Regional Office of Education Committee for LaSalle County, I have some school-related issues to report to the voters. There will be a question on the April 9 ballot in the form of a referendum, asking residents of LaSalle County to impose a 1 percent sales tax on all sales throughout the county.

There are 800 students attending Sandwich schools who live in the northern part of LaSalle County. Should voters approve the referendum, all the school districts in LaSalle County would then share the sales tax revenue which can be used only for facility-related expenses such as new buildings, renovations and maintenance. It cannot be used for salaries, overhead, buses, furniture and fixtures or other operating expenses.

If voters approve the sales tax, it would not be applied to groceries purchased, prescription or over-the-counter medications, any vehicle requiring state licensing, farm equipment or parts.   If the referendum is approved, the money generated from all towns and areas in LaSalle County will be distributed to the school districts, depending on enrollment numbers.

On a separate topic; as part of a state-mandated reduction in the number of regional offices of education from 44 to 35, LaSalle County plans to merge operations with Marshall and Putnam counties. Although the realignment would not take place until July 1, 2015, ROEs have only until June 30 to decide on the change. After that, it is turned over to the state board of education. The main office is to remain in LaSalle County. The cost of the operation will be split among the three counties.

The first step is for the three county boards to adopt enabling resolutions for the merger. Representatives from the three counties will meet soon to discuss the process. Hopefully, the county boards will approved the merger in March. The basic costs such as secretarial service, office space and other expenses will be split according to each county’s assessed property values.

Cathy Owens is a LaSalle County Board member representing the county’s 5th District. She can be reached at jcowens@indianvalley.com.

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