By Matt Largen • President and CEO of Williamson Inc.
Decades ago, Williamson County leaders had the tremendous foresight to focus on making our schools the best in Tennessee. Our economic foundation was laid once our community decided to invest heavily in education. Once again, we have a chance to invest in our economic foundation by supporting a plan that will keep our schools great and our property values strong.
Beginning Jan. 17, Williamson County residents will have a chance to take the first step towards a long-term, comprehensive solution to funding school renovation and construction by voting for an increase in the sales tax. The increase will take our local sales tax rate from 2.25 to 2.75 percent, which amounts to an increase of only 50 cents on every $100 of goods purchased. It is projected to generate an average of $23 million per year for 3 years. The money generated will go towards school construction and renovation. If the plan passes, our new tax rate would be equal to roughly half of that paid by Middle Tennessee counties. If Nashville’s transit plan passes this spring, our proposed tax rate would be equal to Davidson County.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson, a true public servant who has earned the trust of his constituents, is the architect of this creative plan. The Mayor spent most of last year working collaboratively with cities across Williamson County on an agreement to forgo their share of the sales tax for a period of time. Instead, cities will dedicate their share of tax dollars to schools for 3 years. Beginning in year 4, Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District will receive half of the new tax dollars generated and the other half will go to each of the cities for things like public safety and roads.
Taxes raised from this plan will continue to benefit the schools long-term by paying for operational expenses, and will continue to fund schools beginning in year 4 and every year after that through the county sales tax revenue.
This plan is certainly not the entirety of the long-term solution for our schools. However, it is a key part of the long-term solution, and the only portion through which out-of-county residents contribute a substantial portion. We estimate that 28 percent of the plan will be paid by out of county residents. This is the only solution that allows people outside of Williamson County, who shop and eat in our community, to help shoulder the increased financial burden.
Williamson, Inc. is a solution-oriented organization with the mission to help grow our economy in a strategic and thoughtful way. We will continue to work with our local and state elected officials on ways to take the next step to fully fund our schools.
The funding plan for Williamson County Schools plays an integral role in maintaining the economic vitality of our community. The next 5 years of economic success depends on a “yes” vote for this plan on Feb. 6.
A “yes” vote means we will continue down the path of investing in our children and our schools.
A “yes” vote will create an average of $23 million EACH year for 3 years to renovate, expand, and build schools.
A “yes” vote means we will renovate or expand 13 existing schools and build 12 new schools.
A “yes” vote means after year 3, half of the new money goes to operate those schools and half goes to cities for services like public safety and roads.
I encourage you to visit our site WilliamsonChamber.com/SchoolFunding for more information on what this plan means for the future of Williamson County. I urge you to head to the polls in the next few weeks and vote for this plan to fund our first-class school system.