Clerk certifies signatures, Nickel Tax issue will go to the voters

Posted August 7, 2019 at 8:23 am

The issue of whether or not the Clinton County School District’s proposed Nickel Tax will be added to the tax rolls is now in the hands of the voting public, following the certification of enough names to have the issue placed on the ballot by the Clinton County Clerk’s office.

The only questions that remain to be answered are “when” the question will be on a ballot and how the question pertaining to citizens in favor of or opposed to the tax will be worded.

The original affidavit by a petition committee was filed with the county clerk’s office on June 20 and just over a month later, on July 25, the petition bearing some 796 signatures, was turned into that office.

A total of 452 signatures of valid registered voters, or 10 percent of voters who had cast ballots in the latest county general election, was required.

Clinton County Clerk Nathan Collins informed the Clinton County News last Wednesday, July 31, that enough signatures had been verified by his office as legally valid voters and the process was stopped without the necessity of checking all 796 names, since the petition only required the 452 total valid signatures.

There were actually 13 petitions, one for each precinct in the county, and each voter who signed the petition had to be registered from within their own voting precinct for their signature to be valid.

The next step in the process is now up to the Clinton County Board of Education, which has a certain time frame in which to officially decide on seeking to have the referendum put on a “special election” ballot, which would be required to be paid for by the school district, or, to simply have the issue placed as a special referendum vote on the general election ballot coming up in November.

Collins told the NEWS late last week that he is in contact with County Attorney Michael Rains to get specifics on how the process will take place from here, including the deadline the school board has to make a decision about the ballot issue.

They are also discussing who is responsible for the wording of the petition question that will be placed on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the Clinton County Board of Education has two regular monthly meetings scheduled for the days ahead, the first being a work session on Thursday, August 15 and regular business meeting the next Monday, August 19.

The phrase “Nickel Tax” has almost become a household word, especially in the past few months after the Clinton County Board of Education officially voted to add the tax into their 2019-20 year tax district rate.

Although there has been much discussion and also an education process, so to speak, by school officials about what the tax is, how it works, the benefits and cost to taxpayers on average, there is still confusion among many residents.

According to school officials and others, revenue raised from the extra Nnickel Tax placed on the tax rate can only be used for new construction or existing renovation and most say a new Clinton County High School will probably not be possible without the state matching funds that the added tax revenue would generate.

It has also been inferred by education officials that due to the age and condition of the existing high school, the state would not fund renovation costs or repairs to any major piece of equipment that may go out at the school.

According to figures compiled by school district Finance Director Mike Reeves, revenue generated from the tax could be state matched up to $1.53 for every $1 raised locally and over a 20-year period could garner $7 million dollars for the district to help in bonding capacity for construction of a new facility.

He also said the average taxpayer in the county, based on current property tax rates, would be about $25 per year.

It has also been noted that although if a new high school were to be constructed, the existing building would not be used to house students, but the gymnasium would continue to be utilized.

Despite information released, there has been growing opposition to the Nickel Tax over the past few months, as witnessed by the petition committee being formed and the number of signatures gathered on the petitions.

(More information on the ballot process will be released when official information becomes available.)