Petition to put ‘Nickel Tax’ on ballot filed with county clerk

Posted July 31, 2019 at 8:53 am

A petition challenging the school district’s tax rates, primarily the added ‘Nickel Tax’ was officially filed last Thursday, July 25 in the Clinton County Clerk’s office, according to county clerk Nathan Collins.

Following the Clinton County Board of Education’s vote to approve the 2019-20 fiscal year tax rate, a five-person petition committee was formed and began a drive to gain enough signatures to have the measure put to a public vote.

An affidavit by the opposing committee was filed with the county clerk’s office in June. They officially had until July 29 to file the petition, which requires a total of 452 certified signatures of voters–or 10 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the latest general election held in the county.

According to committee members, a total of 796 persons actually signed the petition seeking for a public vote on the tax rate issue.

Clinton County Clerk Collins told the NEWS when the committee filed the affidavit that his office legally had 30 days to verify the names on the petition and certify those names for the issue to be put on a ballot.

However, Collins said Friday of last week that his office staff had already begun the signature certification process and that should be complete sometime by the end of this week.

Those who signed the petitions had to be registered to vote in the exact precinct that listed their precinct location–in other words, there were 13 different petitions containing names representing voters from their own precincts.

The ‘Nickel Tax,’ as it is referred to, is an issue that has been ongoing and much-discussed for at least a couple of years now, with the primary purpose of the revenue garnered from the tax going toward construction of a new Clinton County High School, which school officials and many others feel is a necessity due to the age and condition of the existing facility, part of which was constructed in the early 1960s and began as an elementary school for grades one through seven.

The CCHS gymnasium, affectionately known as “The Castle,” was added on in the early 1970s and if a new high school were to be built, the gym would continue to be utilized, but the existing school would not be used to house students.

Nickel Tax revenue generated could be “matched” with state funds, up to $1.53 for every $1 locally gained and over a 20-year period net over $7 million for the district. The tax can also be used only for new construction or renovation purposes.

It has also been said that due to the age and condition of the existing high school, the state will not put any fund for renovation into that facility.

Although reports are that the average taxpayer, based on the medium income and property tax values, would only pay about $25 more per year on their tax bills, there has been growing opposition to the tax proposal since it was passed by the school board back in the spring.

Collins also noted when the affidavit was filed in June that if the petition was filed and names verified to be put on the ballot, the school board would have the option of either having a special election at the school district’s expense, or simply allow it to be put on the November general election ballot.

(More information on the issue will be published in next week’s Clinton County News after the county clerk’s office has completed its verification process.)