Blount County Tax Revolt closer to forcing charter debate
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County Tax Revolt is close to meeting the minimum requirement to start the process to ask county voters to establish a home rule charter.
The group has collected about 2,600 out of the 3,000 signatures needed for a petition to trigger the creation of a charter commission. “We’re within striking distance,” said Samuel David Duck, who has been pushing the measure.
The group’s goal is to establish a home rule charter that would require future property tax increases to be approved by referendum.
Getting enough signatures would force the county to hold an election to appoint members of a commission to develop the charter. There would be 10 members — one for each of the county’s commission districts.
Once the commission created a proposed charter, it would then have to be approved by voter referendum at another election.
Duck has been watching events unfold concerning a Dec. 10 referendum to increase the sales tax in the city of Maryville from 9.25 to 9.75 percent. Blount County Tax Revolt will use the opportunity to gather more signatures, he said. “If we set up again, we’re there.”
On Thursday, the Blount County Commission decided not to pre-empt the Maryville’s referendum but to wait and see what happens. Commissioners also discussed possibly putting the question of a countywide sales tax increase on the primary election ballot in May 2014.
“Based upon the county’s decision to stay out of the Maryville sales tax referendum, I hope to use the opportunity to not only get more signatures but also to recruit,” Duck said. “There’s 21 County Commission seats as well as other positions such as school board and sheriff and city offices.
‘Need Mr. Smith’
“... With constant efforts to raise taxes and continued borrowing, digging us deeper into debt, it is time for Mr. Smith to go to commission or to council. We need 40 Mr. Smiths.
“The timing may be ideal. Nominating petitions will be available for offices with May primaries. It will be a very easy thing for someone who is fed up to enter the courthouse, vote and pick up a candidate packet. Even if their office isn’t in a May primary, they can still get the rest of the packet. The platform for Mr. Smith is simple. No new taxes. No new debt.”
The threshold to trigger the creation of the commission would be getting the signatures of a number of registered voters equal to at least 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the county for governor at the last gubernatorial election.
Meeting the minimum requirement would not necessarily mean that the group would submit the petition right away. “We want to get a feel for where the public is on things,” Duck said. “We would want to know who would run for each position if we go for this. There are a lot of little details out there. You’ve got to be smart on stuff.”
Those who oppose tax increases need to come forward and seek office rather than waiting for other people to do it, Duck said. “Those people hoping somebody else will step up need to be that somebody else.”
According to The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, home rule in Tennessee is the power of a local county or city under the Tennessee Constitution to adopt its own charter, including its own system of self-government within certain limits dictated by the state constitution and laws.
According to state law, the election of the charter commission members would be concurrent with the next primary or general election in the county occurring 75 days or more after the resolution is adopted or otherwise becomes effective. The cost of the election would be paid out of county funds.