Blount County has 40 days to join sales tax referendum
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maryville has called for a referendum on increasing the sales tax from 9.25 to 9.75 percent, with an election expected Dec. 10, but Blount County could pre-empt the city and hold another countywide election.
Maryville City Council unanimously called for the referendum Tuesday night and sent a certified copy notifying Blount County Election Commission of the call Wednesday morning.
The election board met at 11 a.m. and Blount County Administrator of Elections Libby Breeding said the county has 40 days (until Oct. 13) to notify the commission if it wants to hold an election.
Maryville City Council projects the increase would bring in $2.5 million a year.
Alcoa held an election to raise the rate to 9.75 percent on Aug. 2, 2012, and the increase was approved by a landslide vote. More than 79 percent of the voters cast ballots, with 1,018 voting for the increase and 267 opposed.
Blount County Commission then held a countywide election on the issue on Nov. 6, 2012, which failed with 22,156 against and 20,079 in favor.
If the county decides not to hold another referendum, the election commission will meet Oct. 14 and call for the Maryville election, which would be held Dec. 10, with early voting Nov. 20 to Dec. 5. The commission office would be closed Nov. 28 and 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Early voting hours would be 8 to 11 a.m. on two Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Under the law, the early voting would only have to be conducted three hours a day, but the election office would be open during regular hours for early voters.
If the county declines to hold a referendum, the commission will hold a school of instruction for election workers tentatively on Dec. 3.
If Blount County held an election and it again failed, Maryville could then come back and call for another city-only election. Blount County can call for a special election every six months, with the county bearing the costs unless it is a regularly scheduled state election.
If the referendum passed countywide, the county would get its designated share of all sales taxes, including those from Alcoa and Maryville.
City voting precincts would be cut from 13 to seven, combining precincts which have between eight and 254 registered voters with larger precincts, Breeding said. The reduction would cut the costs to the city of Maryville for the special election, because it would require fewer election workers.
The seven precincts that would be open are: Board of Education City, Everett, John Sevier City, Maryville High School, Maryville Municipal Building City, Maryville College City and Maryville Middle School.
Precincts that would be moved for this city election only, the number of their registered voters and where they will vote are:
• Montvale - Maryville: Eight registered voters relocated to Maryville Middle School;
• Martin Luther King - Maryville: 5 voters to Everett;
• Eagleton Gym - Maryville: 21 voters to John Sevier;
• William Blount High City: 254 voters to Maryville Municipal Building;
• Oak Street - Maryville: 168 voters to Maryville Municipal Building;
• Fairview City: 162 voters to Maryville Municipal Building.
As of August, Maryville has 16,651 registered voters, Breeding said.
In other action, the commission approved the Democratic Party primary call for an election. It will be May 6, 2014, a date set by the state.
Breeding said Sept. 24 will be National Voter Registration Day and the state is urging people to use Facebook and Twitter to get more people to register.
The office will have representatives in schools — Heritage High, Alcoa High, William Blount High and Maryville Christian — on that day signing students up to vote, Breeding said. Breeding said calls to Maryville High School have not been returned.