Blount Co. voters approve sales tax increase

Blount County voters approved a .50 percent sales tax increase in Tuesday's election.

The measure received 7,770 votes for the increase and 4, 033 votes against it.

That money will go to local schools.

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(WBIR - Blount County) This Tuesday voters in Blount County will decide whether to increase the county sales tax from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent. Some supporters of the increase fear the ballot does not fully explain what people are voting for or against.

The real goal of the proposed hike is not necessarily to collect more sales tax out in the county. Its main purpose is to tap into and share millions of dollars of revenue already being collected at a rate of 9.75 percent in the cities of Alcoa and Maryville.

"A lot of the people are saying well we want our fair share," said Don McNelly, Blount County School Board member. "That's what the issue tends to boil down to. Trying to recover what the county residents are currently paying that is going to help Maryville City Schools and Alcoa Schools."

Less than one-third of Blount County's population lives within the city limits of Maryville and Alcoa. But those cities are where the rest of the residents in the county do around 80 to 90 percent of their shopping. In the last couple of years, both Maryville and Alcoa raised their sales tax rates to 9.75 percent in order to generate additional revenue for their city school systems.

"Right now the folks in the county are spending a lot of money in Maryville and Alcoa and they are already paying 9.75 percent sales tax. That extra tax they are already paying is only benefiting the school systems in those cities," said McNelly.

If Blount County raises its sales tax to 9.75 percent, it would trigger revenue sharing between the cities and the county. Whether shoppers spend money in Alcoa, Maryville, or out in the county, the revenue from the recent tax increases would go into a single pot and then be equitably distributed to all three school systems.

"The money would be split up based on student population of each school system," said McNelly. "It would give Blount County Schools somewhere between $2.7 million to $3 million in revenue. Right now our revenue is on average around $300 less per student than the rest of the state. We've not been able to buy textbooks for a number of years. We need technology. So this vote is critical."

McNelly and other supporters of the tax increase fear voters could simply read "sales tax increase" on the ballot and vote against it without fully understanding the impact of their vote.

"We want people to be educated about what they are voting for or against and then vote their conscience," said McNelly. "There is a lot of misinformation out there."

McNelly says he believes it is fair to distribute the money collected in the cities from purchases by people all over the county equitably between the schools in Alcoa, Maryville, and Blount County.

"I have grandchildren in all three systems. I want all three to do well. I really do. Because quality of education is so important. The equality of opportunity is so important," said McNelly.


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