By BROOKE WANSER
After months of discussion in the public sphere, the Williamson County Commission unanimously voted to turn the question of a half a percent sales tax increase to help fund schools over to the people for a referendum vote to be held next year.
If passed, the sales tax increase would raise the current tax of 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent. The county commission’s vote moved forward the process, which will allow for a county-wide referendum to be held within 75 to 90 days of Monday night’s vote.
Subsequent measures unanimously passed will allow each city in the county to redistribute half of the one half percent sales tax not allocated for schools.
Mayor Rogers Anderson previously announced that the cities of Thompson’s Station, Spring Hill, Nolensville, Franklin, and Brentwood would each surrender half of funds raised from the sales tax increase to the school district for the next three years.
The city of Fairview, which is already at the maximum sales tax allowed by state law, will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the county to allow a portion of their sales tax revenue to go towards the same objectives as the other five municipalities.
Dwight Jones, the District 1 commissioner from Fairview, said his community was happy to help do their part. “Me and Ricky [Jones] could have just said, alright, the rest of the county’s got to deal with the sales tax, Fairview has already got it,” he said. “But I do commend Mayor Anderson for working with them to make sure everybody in the county is on the same page.”
Anderson said the unanimous vote was, “a strong thank you to all of our cities for stepping up,” he said. “Because that’s where the growth is occurring, inside these cities. This is their way of saying we understand, we acknowledge the fast growing cities that we have, we have an obligation.”
Like Fairview, Anderson pointed out that many counties across the state had already maximized their sales taxes.
He said increasing sales tax was one of many options he had been looking into for nearly two years to help fund the expansion of county schools. Other options, he said, included a wheel tax and raising property taxes.
Anderson said one reason he thought the sales tax was preferable to other options was that it might not directly affect all residents. He cited a statistic that nearly one-third of shoppers don’t reside in the county. “I support giving the people an opportunity,” he said. “Make their choice, because ultimately we have to pay for schools.”
Prior to the vote, Williamson County Administrator of Elections Chad Gray informed commissioners that holding a county-wide referendum would cost the county approximately $140,000. East said the commission had not yet set a date for the referendum. However, he estimated it would be in early February.