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Wheel tax could roll into Blount Co. to help schools

7:15 PM, Apr 2, 2013   |    comments
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Paying more taxes is something most people don't like, but officials in Blount County say it may be necessary to help the school district.

Talks of a wheel tax are rolling through the area. Blount County Commissioner Holden Lail said his constituents suggested the idea as a way for more people to share the extra costs, instead of all of the pressure being put on homeowners.

"We have tons of people who live in rental property, who make use of our county roads and our schools, and they do not have a direct responsibility towards supporting those schools," said Commissioner Lail.

Blount County Schools is requesting $86.8 million from the Blount County Commission, the school system's funding body, for the county schools' fiscal year 2013 - 2014.

Director of Schools Rob Britt said, "Our revenue projections, unfortunately, are at $79.9 million."

That means there's about a $6.9 million deficit.

"We are in great need of some textbooks and some materials that are aligned in the new Common Core State Standards that our students and teachers will be measured on in the future," said Britt. He also said the money will be used to provide better technology for the students and step raises for teachers and support staff. Britt said none of the money will be used for additional positions.

Initially, there were talks of a 38.5 cent property tax increase to help the county schools.

Commissioner Lail said, "On a $100,000 home, it would be at least $100 to $110, just on an estimation, and that would impact a lot of folks who are on fixed incomes more than a $35 car registration fee."

Commissioner Lail will present a resolution at the April 9th Agenda Committee meeting. He's proposing a Blount County Wheel Tax of $35 per vehicle and $17.50 per motorcycle.

"There are only nine other counties in the state that charges a wheel tax of lesser amounts," Commissioner Lail said.

Nearby Monroe County charges a Wheel Tax of $25. Jefferson County charges $25 per vehicle and $15 per motorcycle. Knox County charges $36.

Brandon Scherer of Maryville said, "I'm okay with it as long as it's for a good purpose [like] education or healthcare. Anything like that, I'm okay with taxes. They don't bother me at all."

Charles Walker, also of Maryville, said, "I think it's a good thing if it's going solely to the schools. I feel like the schools need the money and I am for that, even though I am going to have to pay it too."

Commissioner Lail and Britt both admit the wheel tax will not cover the entire nearly $7 million deficit for school system's next year budget, as Commissioner Lail estimates if the tax is passed it will generate about $3.5 million. However, both said the money will definitely be a big help.

Commissioner Lail said if the wheel tax passes the commission, it will be put on the already scheduled June 11th special election ballot so voters can decide.

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