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Williamson Co. Passes Sales Tax Increase Referendum

Posted at 8:19 PM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 23:23:29-05

Residents in Williamson County hit the polls on Tuesday to vote on a referendum that would increase the sales tax by half a cent.

Nearly 7,000 out of roughly 140,000 registered voters in the county cast their ballots early.

The motion passed 8,155 to 4,183. The referendum will fund the construction of new schools by raising the sales tax from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent. 

It is expected to bring in nearly $70 million over three years. 

However, it will require even more money to supply over $420 million expected to construct schools in the district as part of a five-year plan

County officials said there are approximately 2,000 new students every year but there are not enough schools to accommodate them.

"We're going to need more money. We have such an influx of new students so we have to build more schools," said Williamson County Commissioner Todd Kaestner.

There are currently about 39,000 students in Williamson County but the number is expected to double in the next 15 to 20 years. 

With new openings, there will be 47 schools in Williamson County by the next school year. 

"It does seem like there are more people for the sales tax increase at least in my opinion," said resident Sean Bell.

Bell is a father of two young children and voted to pass the referendum. 

"I believe that it would be better to pay an increase in sales tax than in our property taxes," added Bell.

Kaestner said revenue will need to raise regardless of which form of taxes increase. If the referendum fails, he said it would be equivalent to a 10 percent property tax increase.

He stated by increasing the sales tax, then the burden would not be completely left up to the homeowners.

"If we have to raise a million dollars in the county for whatever reason and we choose to do it through property taxes, then that million dollars is paid for by 100 percent of the residents. With a sales tax, about 30 percent of the revenue comes from people who live outside the county," said Kaestner.

That is the exact reason why David Scherer showed up to vote at the Westhaven Clubhouse in Franklin. 

He wanted to avoid the same property tax increase he saw when he used to live in Illinois.

"The property taxes were skyrocketing. In less than ten years ours went from $9,000 a year to over $16,000," stated Scherer.

However, there are also concerns that the referendum would be a disservice to low-income families.

One voter told NewsChannel 5 that te school district should budget more wisely. Meanwhile, others say the responsibility should not be on homeowners but developers.

County officials implemented an impact fee that developers would have to pay to construct a new home in 2016. 

It has raised about $10 million but officials are choosing to be conservative as the county is in the middle of lawsuit filed by a group of developers, according to Kaestner.