A referendum to increase county sales taxes in Williamson County from 2.25 percent to 2.77 percent passed by a 2-to-1 margin in a low turnout election held in the dead of winter on Tuesday.
“Out of the 12,365 ballots cast, 66.1 percent (or just over 8,000 voters) voted for the increase, while 33.9 percent (just over 4,000) voted against the referendum,” WSMV reported after the polls closed Tuesday and all the votes were counted.
“This is an extremely low turnout so far,” Williamson County Administrator of Elections Chad Gray told WSMV before the polls closed on Tuesday.
After all the votes were count, Gray’s initial comments were confirmed–only about 9 percent of the county’s registered voters ended up casting their ballots. About 6,000 participated in early voting between January 17 and February 1, and a little over 6,000 voted on the actual election day, Tuesday.
Supporters of the county sales tax increase said the additional funds were needed to pay for new public schools in the Williamson County School system.
Opponents decried the increase as insufficient for the claimed purpose, and the wrong mechanism for financing new school construction.
But the supporters were well funded and politically clever to schedule the referendum as the sole issue on a wintry day everyone knew would be a low turnout day, as The Tennessee Star reported on the eve of the election:
Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney signed a letter sent to Williamson County voters by Citizens for School Funding, a political action committee supporting the proposed sales tax increase on the ballot in the county today its supporters say is necessary to fund increased construction of Williamson County Public Schools. . .
In the letter, which is clearly intended to support the sales tax increase, Looney advances the fiction that he is not taking a position on today’s vote . . .
Presumably, both Dr. Looney and Citizens for School Funding have run this mailing by their attorneys and have received the green light indicating that Looney’s language “threads the needle” sufficiently so as not to be in violation of either election law or his employment contract.
In the end, the supporters of the county sales tax increase prevailed easily on Tuesday.
Opponents now warn that new pitches for additional school funding are soon on the way.