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Should local sales tax be raised for schools?

August 22nd, 2011 10:29 am by Staff Report

Officials from the Johnson City and Washington County school systems are weighing public support for a referendum to raise the local option sales tax. A committee made up of board of education members from the two systems is continuing to study the pros and cons of putting a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the ballot early next year.
As Press staff writer Madison Mathews reported earlier this month, Phillip McLain, chairman of the Washington County Board of Education, believes a sales tax increase would help students in both systems.
“It’s for the benefit of the students in Washington County — the entire county and Johnson City is right in the center of it,” McLain said. “They’ve got something over 7,000 students and we’ve got over 9,000 students, so this is for the students. It’s just to help us to better educate those students, to get them ready for life, college and career.”
Kathy Hall, chairwoman of the Johnson City Board of Education, said both systems are seeing increased costs to run schools. The two systems are also facing cuts to both staff and programs, which she said could be offset by increasing the sales tax by a quarter-cent. Hall said the proposed sales tax hike is all “about keeping status quo.”
Currently, 7 percent of the revenues collected from Washington County’s 9.5 percent sales tax rate goes to the state. Local officials fear if the cash-strapped state decides to raise its portion of the sales tax to the limit before the local rate is raised, all new revenues collected would stay in Nashville.
Should the local option sales tax be raised for public schools?
Tell us what you think by sending your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.
We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks. You also can go to to cast a vote in the online poll.
Results of the poll and comments from readers will appear on this page Aug. 30.

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