SANDWICH – City leaders are hoping to educate voters about what they say is a needed sales tax increase before the April election after a nearly identical referendum failed in the fall.
In November, Sandwich voters rejected a proposal to increase the sales tax rate by a percentage point on most goods sold in the city. About 1,630 voters – or 55.01 percent – opposed the referendum.
Twenty days after the election, the City Council unanimously approved putting the referendum back in front of voters April 4 in the consolidated election.
Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson said he thinks the measure can pass this time if voters have more information about the sales tax proposal.
“We’ve got to get the facts out,” he said.
The proposed 1 percent sales tax is expected to bring in about $700,000 more a year. Olson said 65 percent of that money would come from people who live outside the city’s boundaries but shop at Sandwich businesses.
The 1 percent sales tax would be added to the existing 6.25 percent sales tax for most purchases, but Olson said it wouldn’t include vehicle sales and thus wouldn’t affect automobile dealerships.
The sales tax revenue will be used to cover the cost of running the city. Olson said the city has an operating budget of about $6 million a year. Last year, it ran a deficit. The city also plans to use some of the money for its new police station, a project expected to cost about $4 million, Olson said.
Sandwich’s sales tax is lower than many surrounding communities, Olson said. In DeKalb and Sycamore, the sales tax rate is 8 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Without the money, Olson said the city would have to make difficult decisions about how to maintain existing city services and may have to reduce service levels. The city’s nonunion employees didn’t get a raise last year, he said.
Sandwich also wants to become less reliant on state funding given the uncertainty of Illinois’ finances, Olson said.