With all precincts reporting, unofficial totals on the half-cent sales tax referendum show voters are unwilling to approve an additional sales tax in Blount County, even with the money earmarked for education.
Vote totals were 30,871 against and 18,124 in favor of a half-cent increase in local sales tax, with the increase earmarked for local schools.
In the race for Maryville City schools, Doug Jenkins and Charles West were appointed to the two seats. Vote totals were Jenkins -- 6,168; West -- 6,082; Bethany Hodson Pope -- 5,523.
In the Townsend referendum to allow the sale of wine, the referendum passed with 127 voting For and 106 Against.
In the Louisville Alderman race, Steve Dixon and Joe Gallagher are the two winners. Vote totals are Dixon -- 867; Gallagher -- 667; Michael Mund -- 463.
In Alcoa, Clayton Bledsoe and Ken White defeated George Williams for the two Board of Commissioners positions.
Vote totals for Alcoa are Bledsoe -- 1,884; White -- 1,792; Williams -- 1,757.
In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander and incumbent Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. easily won their seats. Locally, State Rep. Doug Overbey defeated independent Ira Lapides of Gatlinburg for the 8th State Senatorial District seat. In Blount County, vote totals were Overbey -- 37,680; Lapides -- 8,636.
Overbey said he had a lifetime of service through civic and charitable causes. “I bring a lifetime of experience in being involved in community and eight years in the House of Representatives,” he said.
County Commissioner Robert Ramsey was unopposed for the 20th District House seat.
“I’m blessed and encouraged about the support from Blount County,” he said. “I can contribute to the interests of Blount County and East Tennessee.”
Incumbent 8th District state Rep. Joe McCord, a Republican, also had no opposition.
In the Maryville city elections, Mayor Joe Swann and Council Member Tom Taylor were the only two candidates for two positions. Mayor Swann, however, announced at the Maryville City Council meeting Tuesday that, while he will remain on council, he will not seek the position of mayor. He will have been mayor for six years.
Maryville City Council also appointed Fred Metz to fill the seat left vacant by the death earlier this year of Ron Ivens. It took five ballots for the council to decide between Metz, Dee Dee Christopher and Teresa Horn.
Metz’s term will expire in November of 2010.
The push for the local sales tax referendum began in August when a group of Blount County residents formed Blount Countians for Educational Excellence to pursue a county-wide referendum to raise the local option sales tax by a half-cent with the mantra, “A half-cent is money well spent.” The motivation for the move was to get the last half-cent of sales tax for local schools before the state General Assembly moved to take it to fund schools across the state.
Among the key points the grassroots group is emphasizing is:
If the vote fails to pass in the county, the cities could vote on the tax with all monies going to the cities.
The State of Tennessee is in a financial shortfall. The State of Tennessee could opt to raise the local option sales tax, meaning they would collect any additional revenue and redistribute it as they see fit across the state.
Based on 2007 sales tax receipts, the group estimates the added tax would have raised approximately $7.7 million each year, with the likelihood of 2 percent increases each year. Under state law, cities and counties in Tennessee can levy up to a 2.75 percent local option sales tax. The local option in Blount County is currently 2.25 percent.
Steve West said the tax referendum was defeated 2-3. “It is not a good time to vote for tax increase,” he said
At the Election Commission, outgoing Alcoa commissioner George Williams shared his thoughts on his years of service and on results showing that residents had lost by less than 40 votes.
“I’ve had almost 20 great years of serving the City of Alcoa. There comes a time when the process works, and the process worked. I’m going to continue to do what I can to make Alcoa a great place to live,” Williams said. “I have children and grandchildren, and I plan for them to grow up here. I was working for the city before I was elected and this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.”
Williams said Ken White and Clayton Bledsoe would do a great job for Alcoa along with the other commissioner. “Alcoa has great things in the works, and I’m just proud to have been a part of it,” he said.
Elections administrator Libby Breeding there were 40 provisional ballots out and, if the election commission approves those, which included individuals who registered to vote while getting driver’s licenses rather than in their district, then the votes would be counted.
There were also a handful of federal write-in ballots that Breeding said were submitted by military personnel concerned they wouldn’t receive a ballot and be able to return it in time for the election. “It’s a blank ballot, and they write in whom they want,” she said. “We had five of those.”
Breeding said there also were about a dozen property rights voters in Alcoa and Maryville who voted on municipal matters even though they didn’t live in the city limits. “This allows them to vote on city portions like the council and school board,” she said. “They vote for president in their home precinct.
A new president
Barrack Obama has empowered people to get things done, said Blount County Democratic party chair Dave Finch. “People should understand that the game has changed.”
Blount County Republican party chair Dave Bennett said he loves the Democratic process no matter who wins. “I love the Democratic process which gave us the right to be here,” he said. “Each of our candidates has sweated through the whole process.”
After the polls closed, residents loyal to either the Blount County Republican Party or the Blount County Democratic Party went to respective planned events.
At both the Republican and Democratic gatherings, people from all over the county celebrated the right to be citizens and to cast their votes and voice their opinions on matters of concern.
Bob Ramsey, county commission member and now state representative-elect for the 20th district, said that to see an African American on the electoral ballot made him feel that we have progressed. Doug Overbey, District 20 State Representative, said “It’s an exciting and historic day. I feel honored to be part of the process.”
When asked about personal thoughts about the election, Blount County commissioner Wendy Pitts said that this election is breaking barriers. “For the first time people get the chance to make a change,” she said.
Tony Webb, vice chair of Blount County Democratic Party stated that everyone is looking for a change. Webb said he was excited about what this election has brought to the people of Blount County.