Half-cent sales tax community forums planned

Blount County residents interested in learning more about the proposed half-cent sales tax referendum to benefit education will have three chances to attend forums focusing on the initiative.

The grassroots citizens group, Blount Countians for Educational Excellence, has scheduled a series of community forums to provide additional information and answer questions regarding the half-cent sales tax referendum. The forums are open to the public.

The sessions are scheduled for the following dates: 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at Maryville College’s Lawson Auditorium; 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Blount County Public Library and at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3, at Maryville College’s Lawson Auditorium.

Blount Countians for Educational Excellence is a grassroots citizens group whose goal is to increase the local option sales tax by one-half cent with revenue going to education.

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 raise approximately $7.7 million each year, with the likelihood of 2 percent increases each year. Blount County Schools would enjoy roughly $2.9 million in extra funding every 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.

For more information on the half-cent sales tax initiative, log on to www.halfacent.org.

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