QUINCY -- Community members will be working to persuade fellow voters to support a tax increase for Quincy Public Schools.
Jeff Spear will head a committee charged with spreading the word about the district's need for the 53-cent increase in the education fund tax rate which is expected to generate $5.3 million in additional revenue.
Spear said the committee, expected to meet for the first time after the first of the year, will represent a cross section of the community with one key goal for the March 17 election.
"The main thing is hopefully educating the voters about the needs that are out there and just getting them the facts," Spear said.
A telling fact for Spear was that Quincy's current $1.84 tax rate in the education fund is the lowest of the 49 districts in the Large Unit District Association.
"I absolutely hate paying taxes; however, I would vote for this because I think there's an overriding sense of one, it's the right thing to do; it's the right thing for Quincy, the right thing for kids," Spear said. "At some point in time, we have to say OK if we want our schools to be where they need to be, we have to take care of it ourselves."
The committee plays a key role because school officials can provide facts and answer questions tied to the referendum but can't promote the proposed tax increase.
"If people want to know things, they can still come to us, but we can't lobby. We can't spend district funds for the referendum vote," Superintendent Roy Webb said.
A community committee promoted the $89 million building referendum approved by voters in 2014, and for this referendum, "there will be a campaign just like there was for the building campaign," School Board member Richard McNay said.
"It was a case of getting information out to the community of why it was important to pass the referendum," Spear said. "That's sort of the same goal we're going to have."
Board President Sayeed Ali approached community members to serve on the committee and found people not only willing to listen but to help.
"Everybody is willing to talk to whoever," Ali said. "We'll be doing the same thing with forums, going out to all the groups."
Spear said the committee's work will be challenging.
"Living in a state like Illinois, every time you turn around you're seeing another tax increase. The difference with this one is the voters actually get to vote on it," he said. "I see our role as being a group that can get in front of people that are frustrated with taxes in Illinois but say ‘yes we're frustrated with a lot of things, but this is important and this is important for Quincy.'"
Ali emphasized the importance of educating the community before the election.
"If we're honest enough with the town, they've shown that they'll listen to us, not that they'll agree us, but they'll listen to what we have to say," Ali said. "That is extremely important -- to have a community at least willing to have that conversation with us. Ultimately, it's their decision."