Blount County wheel tax proposal voted down

Blount County wheel tax proposal voted down

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Voter turnout for the referendum was low. Voter turnout for the referendum was low.
"Wheel tax is better reserved for roads, not schools," said Bob McCammon, a Maryville resident who voted against the tax. "Wheel tax is better reserved for roads, not schools," said Bob McCammon, a Maryville resident who voted against the tax.
"This specially called election is an attempt to try to slide it through and catch people off-guard, while they are on vacation," said Tona Monroe, a member of the Blount County Tax Revolt. "This specially called election is an attempt to try to slide it through and catch people off-guard, while they are on vacation," said Tona Monroe, a member of the Blount County Tax Revolt.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) - Blount County citizens took to the polls Tuesday for a special referendum and voted down a proposed $35 wheel tax. 

The proposal was originally passed by county commission as a way to alleviate a shortfall in the school system's budget.

Voters rejected the proposal by a 8,885 to 4,087 difference, not counting provisional ballots.

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said after the vote the county plans to reallocate funds to help fill the budget shortfall.

"Wheel tax is better reserved for roads, not schools," said Bob McCammon, a Maryville resident who voted against the tax.

Had it passed, the wheel tax would apply to about 164,000 vehicles registered in the county, including motorcycles.  

Blount County Director of Schools Dr. Rob Britt told 6 News in April that if something isn't done, the school systems will face deep cuts.  

"We wouldn't be just cutting things we need that we're putting into the budget next year, we'd be cutting critical services we need right now, today," Britt said. 

With the tax or other measures to boost funds, the Blount County school system faces a $6.8 million budget shortfall.

Teachers like Kristin Bayshore say they feel the need for more funding. 

"Working for one year in Blount County, I can see that need, and with the new curriculum coming out, technology is the big thing needed to help our students," Bayshore said.

If the wheel tax had passed, state law requires the money be shared with two other school systems in the county, Maryville and Alcoa City Schools. 

Maryville City Schools would have received 28 percent of the revenue from the tax. School officials estimate the tax would have generated $1.2 million for Maryville schools. 

The school system's director says the Maryville City Schools are in good financial shape, but may have to dip into its fund balance in the fall.

"While we're not urgent as Blount County at this point in time, we've already made some major changes to address that," said Stephanie Thompson, director of Maryville City Schools.  

Several officials Tuesday said voting turnout was lower than expected for the referendum. Approximately 5,500 Blount county residents voted during the early voting period.

The Blount County Tax Revolt is a grassroots organization that publicly spoke out against the proposal. Members of the group questioned the timing of referendum vote.

"This specially called election is an attempt to try to slide it through and catch people off-guard, while they are on vacation," said Tona Monroe, a member of the Blount County Tax Revolt.

Previous attempts at addressing education budget shortfalls in the county have also failed.

A proposed half-cent sales tax increase proposal was shot down in 2012 and a proposed $10 wheel tax was voted down in 2006.

"It got voted down as a $10 wheel tax. I don't really see how they think it will pass a $35 wheel tax," said Gary Riggatti, a Maryville resident who voted against the tax. 

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