Proposed sales tax increase in Massac County

Nearly everything you buy in Massac County, Illinois, could soon be more expensive.

Next week, voters will decide whether to raise the county’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent.

The money would pay for renovations at the courthouse downtown.

The proposed 1 percent sales tax increase effects nearly everything except groceries; medications and vitamins; licensed and titled vehicles; boats and RVs; and farm equipment, parts and inputs. 

Crumbling walls, cracked windows and peeling ceilings fill the inside of the Massac County Courthouse, from the boiler room to holes in the second floor ceiling.

County Commissioner Jayson Farmer says they’re asking voters to approve increasing the sales tax by 1 percent to fund the estimated $5 million renovations.

"The courthouse needs a lot of work done to it with the electrical, the plumbing, the roofing and the windows. And it’s time for us to try to move forward with that," says Farmer.

The plumbing is so bad in some places that the urinals aren’t even functional, because you can’t flush. The hard water is so strong, there’s no way for the water to drain.

People around town are split on the tax hike.

The women at Happy Hearts say they’re set against it.

Rachael Vissen and Terri Smith at the future 718 Brewcafe say they support it.

"I think this proposed sales tax increase of 1 percent is a very small price to pay for a functional building that provides so many services to the county," says Vissen.

They’ll need a majority of voters to pass the increase.

Farmer says he believes the community support is there.

"I think a lot of people in the community take a lot of pride in this building and look forward to it being renovated," says Farmer.

If the tax passes next Tuesday, the sales tax is expected to go in to effect in August with construction to start in the fall.

If the vote fails, they say they plan on putting it back on the ballot during the presidential election in November.

They say they either have to renovate the building they’re in or move.

If passed, the sales tax is set to expire after 15 years, but the tax will go away if enough money is raised to pay for the renovations earlier.

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