Fore Note: Once again, when given to option to pay higher taxes, even for the children, voters say no.

Blount voters nix wheel tax by 2-1 margin

Measure defeated by 2-1 margin

Robert Wilson Special to the News Sentinel

MARYVILLE — For the second time in five years, Blount County voters have rejected a wheel tax, this one designed to help fund the county’s school system.

The vote was 4,087 in favor and 8,885 against.

The vote leaves Blount County Schools facing sharp cuts in classroom technology and possibly personnel unless County Commission addresses the shortfall through a property tax increase.

The wheel tax was projected to bring about $2.4 million into county coffers, about 60 percent of the total which, under state law, must be shared with the other two school systems in Blount County — Alcoa and Maryville.

The wheel tax, setting a levy of $35 per car and $17.50 for motorcycles, was placed before voters by a commission resolution passed in April.

Educators and other school supporters favored the tax while vocal anti-tax citizens opposed it.

There are an estimated 164,000 autos registered in Blount County, with about 20,000 of those being rental cars, presumably registered in Blount because of the lack of a wheel tax.

Supporters of the tax say they believe it is fairer than having education totally dependent on property taxes because children of people who do not own property also must attend schools. But almost all residents of the county own at least one vehicle.

Opponents have said that in tough economic

times, the imposition of another levy is ill-advised and places too heavy a burden on people on fixed incomes.

Blount County voters soundly rejected a $10 wheel tax in 2008 that was earmarked for road improvements.

The commission is obliged by state law to pass a budget and appropriations by the end of this month, setting a property tax rate for the coming year.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the commission’s Agenda Committee — which comprises all 21 commissioners — a resolution setting the property tax rate at the current level was forwarded to the full commission for consideration at next week’s meeting.

With the wheel tax having been defeated by more than a 2-1 margin, budget discussions will become more complicated by the short timeframe for approval.