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Local News

Officials seek to bump up sales tax

July 7th, 2011 11:26 pm by Heather Richardson

The Washington County Board of Education appointed three of its members to serve on a joint board with members from the Johnson City Board of Education to raise awareness and support for a quarter-cent sales tax increase.
Washington County’s members will be board chairman Phillip McLain, Clarence Mabe and Mary Lo Silvers.
“This is a committee between the two school boards to develop a program to sell this program to the teachers, the PTAs and the community so that when it comes up for vote it will pass,” McLain said. “This is going to be a series of workshops between Johnson City school board and Washington County school board.”
The two school boards met in May to discuss how a quarter-cent sales tax increase could save a number of jobs and educational programs in both school systems. One major point discussed at the May meeting was the possibility of the state increasing the sales tax rate and keeping the revenue. Currently the state keeps 7 percent of Washington County’s 9.5 percent sales tax rate. If the state opted to raise the rate before it was raised locally, the revenue from that increase would go to the state.
Both boards agreed in May that such an exploratory committee needed to be formed to further examine the option before formally requesting it be put on the ballot. The committee likely will be comprised of members from both boards, financial directors from both systems and likely commissioners from both the city and county.
If the commissions support the increase, paperwork must be filed with the election office by December for it to appear on the March ballot.
In other business, the board voted to establish a $50 athletic pass for high school students. The pass would serve as a kind of season pass for admission to home games of any sport at the student’s school. The board’s intention is to increase student involvement as well as athletics revenue. Board funding of athletics programs has been cut over the years due to budgetary constraints. Board members are hoping the athletic passes will help alleviate some of the financial strain.
The board also approved, for similar reasons, setting the athletic admission costs for middle school events at $3 for adults and $1 for students. The cost for students had previously been $3.
According to board member Todd Ganger, the system’s athletic directors believed the lower price would bring in more money by bringing in more people.
The item was voted against by Clarence Mabe who was concerned that lowering the prices would also lower the revenue, putting the athletic departments in a tough financial situation.

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