Sevier County voters defeat sales tax effort, barely

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Sevier County voters narrowly defeated a quarter cent sales tax increase that would have gone to build new schools. Now, with increasing enrollment, what will they do next?

The vote was close.

Nearly 10,000 people voted on that referendum, and it failed by just about a hundred votes.

School officials say they needed the money because of overcrowding.

Some are glad it failed, but some are worried about how the government could get the money from them anyway.

Sevier county school officials are disappointed by Tuesday's election results. The schools superintendent says the quarter cent would have provided 8 million dollars annually for new schools. Superintendent Jack Parton says they're dealing with an over crowding problem. At Sevier county high there's 18-hundred students in a building designed for 12-hundred. And their new school in Boyd's creek.

Parton says, "Four years ago we opened up with 450 students. We now have nearly 800 students going to be enrolled when school starts next week."

Several new schools were planned with the 144 million dollar capital project.
But with around a hundred vote difference, the nearly ten thousand voters were divided.

Layla Hicks supported the tax, and says, "The Sevier county school district, there's so many people moving in and coming to this area that the schools are overcrowded."

Robert Schoner thinks the taxes are high enough.

"We're already paying 9.5 percent, which is extremely high, and we're talking about people that have to go to food banks and things like that to get food."

So with overcrowding issues, school officials are looking at other options....maybe a property tax.

Parton says, "We were trying to go another way except the property tax but of coarse that's always an option."

And for some residents, that's doesn't sound as good as the sales tax.

Jettie Clabo likes the sales tax option.

"If we had gotten the sales tax, the tourist, anybody that buys anything would have helped pay, not just the property owners of Sevier County."

For now, superintendent Jack Parton says they are going to just step back and look at all the alternatives.

But one of those alternatives may surprise you.

Parton says, because the vote was so close, they're are exploring the option of giving voters another chance with another referendum on the November general election ballot.

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