Blount Budget Committee wants to put sales tax increase on ballot Nov. 6
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Blount County Commission Budget Committee wants their share of the 0.5 percent sales tax increase that Alcoa voters passed Aug. 2.
Their idea is to put the question of raising the sales tax countywide from the current 9.25 to 9.75 percent on the Nov. 6 ballot for the citizens to decide.
Alcoa officials campaigned to get the city tax increase with all the money going toward a new Alcoa High School.
Blount County would also earmark the money for two departments — Blount County Schools and the Highway Department. Presently, the local share of the sales tax is divided equally between these two entities.
Blount County Highway Department Superintendent Bill Dunlap said: “I don’t know how many people in the county realize what this is going to do for Alcoa. We shop in the Alcoa. You’re looking at 50 cents on $100. It’s there for us to grab hold of and utilize.”
He said “it will increase asphalt. I’ll see to it that every penny is shared equally between every County Commission district.
“Fifteen years ago I spent $1 million a year on asphalt. Last year it was $400,00 to $500,000 due to revenues going away, which meant less sales tax monies, and cost of the product itself increased dramatically,” he said.
Dunlap pledged that all the money generated for the Highway Department from an increased sales tax would be spent on asphalt.
Half of Alcoa funds
If Blount County voters approved the tax increase, they would get half of the sales tax in Alcoa.
Alcoa City Commission in called session Monday unanimously approved appropriating $2.4 million to the fiscal 2013 budget for the construction budget for the new high school.
Alcoa estimates the increase will bring in an additional $3.2 to $3.4 million in sales tax revenue annually.
Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt said: “Schools are beginning the budget process $5 million in the hole. Alcoa spends $2,426 more per pupil per year than Blount County. Now a one-half cent sales tax increase will pump millions of dollars into Alcoa schools.”
This should go to all schools. Britt said the money would go a long way to keep teachers and teaching assistants in place and could, hopefully, improve on technology, pay for new textbooks and add instruction resources.
Trevis Gardner, who was elected to the Blount County School Board last week, said: “I don’t think the children of Alcoa deserve that money any more than mine do.”
He had been appointed to the board to serve the term of the late John Davis until the election.
Budget Committee member Mike Lewis asked why the idea was “to specify where the increase goes instead of putting it in the general account.”
Budget Commissioner Holden Lail said Alcoa painted a picture of what the money would mean and the voters obviously liked the picture because they passed it unanimously.
“By specifying where the money will go, you get a picture of what the impact of that money will be,” Lail said.
As much as 95 percent of the retail (sales tax) in the county come from Alcoa and Maryville.
Should Blount County voters approve the referendum, the sales tax would be 9.75 percent countywide.
The Budget Committee unanimously supported the resolution, which will go to the agenda committee tonight and to the full Blount County Commission next week.
Following the meeting, Blount County resident Helen Abbott said, “I was against raising the sales tax, but if I’m going to have to pay when I go to Alcoa, then I want my share.”