By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
All seven Quincy School Board candidates taking part in a forum Tuesday night said they would be willing to consider asking voters to increase the district's Education Fund tax rate if the district faced a dire financial situation.
The district's rate of $1.84 per $100 assessed valuation is the maximum allowed without a voter-approved increase, yet it remains among the lowest of all members of the Illinois Large Unit District Association.
Sheldon Bailey said the Quincy School District is getting "great value" from that $1.84 rate. "We're doing a lot with that, and that's something to be proud of," he said.
However, he said if the district faced a major loss of funding from state, federal, local or grant sources "and our costs are the same, we may have to come back and ask the voters to consider an increase in that."
Richard Jones said he would consider seeking an Education Fund increase only if a revenue loss threatened "the quality of education" in Quincy schools.
"I think sometime in the very near future the school district is going to have to look at increasing that Education Fund tax rate, and it may strictly be because of the cuts in the state and federal government programs where we get a lot of our money," Jones said.
Sayeed Ali said he tends to be "fairly conservative" when it comes to fiscal matters. "I believe in spending what you have and not throwing money at problems without a solution," he said.
Ali said if the district faced a major revenue dropoff, the board would have a responsibility to "look at all sides" to find a solution. "If we get to a point where we need to explore other options, I would be open to that," he said.
Bobette Cawthon said she wouldn't rule out the possibility of asking voters to consider an Education Fund rate bump in the event of a fiscal crisis.
"The only way I would support a tax increase would be if it goes directly to the children for their education, and that would obviously have to be approved by the voters," she said. "We need to live within our means and only raise taxes as a last resort and as a benefit to the children."
Richard McNay said no one wants to pay more taxes, including himself, but he would consider putting a tax issue before voters if the need arises.
"Once you start cutting staff and programs down to the point where it's really affecting the education of the children in the schools, we would have to gather our facts, we would have to put on a campaign and we would have to communicate it to the public and try to gain the public's support," McNay said. "All you can do is give the voters the opportunity. It's the voters that ultimately decide."
Rollie Platt agreed "none of us want to pay more taxes." But if state or federal revenue sources were significantly curtailed, he said, "the actual increase of taxes in that situation would have to be something that would be looked at only after many, many different avenues were tested."
Jamie Foster also would be open to this possibility.
"I'm part of the middle class, and I am one of the last people who would love to raise taxes," she said. "But if it's a need for our children and our education system, then it may be a need for the community to vote on."
An eighth candidate, Ronnie McKenzie, did not attend the forum.