Just over one week remains to early vote in Lebanon’s Sales Tax Referendum.
Registered voters within the city limits can cast their ballot in favor of or in opposition to the half-cent sales tax increase from now until Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Wilson County Election Commission, 203 E Main Street, Lebanon. Voting is open from 8 a.m. until noon through Saturday, Sept. 13; from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Sept. 15-17; and from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sept. 18.
The election for the referendum will be held Tuesday, Sept. 23 at regularly assigned polling places. A valid photo ID is required.
Mayor Philip Craighead said that if the sales tax increase passes, raising local sales and use tax from 2.25 to 2.75 percent, property tax reductions are assured.
Although a certain amount cannot be promised until work begins on the 2015-2016 budget in early 2015, Craighead said steps have already been taken which will allow them to reduce property taxes up to 30 percent.
“Through Resolution 14-1808, which the council approved with unanimous support, we have promised to lower property taxes up to 30 percent. All the numbers we have seen say that this is very possible for us to do,” he added.
Craighead explained that sales tax and property tax are the two sources of revenue for the city – and that in order to make progress and “achieve the goals people want me to achieve” in relation to paving roads and sidewalks, fire protection and city services – additional revenue is needed.
“By having that revenue come from sales tax dollars, the burden doesn’t fall on our homeowners,” he said.
Craighead spoke with retail store managers in 2012 and obtained estimates leading him to believe that 65 percent the sales tax garnered in Lebanon comes from shoppers outside of the city.
“The outlet mall is our largest retailer for sales tax dollars and roughly 80 percent of shoppers at the outlet mall are from outside of the city,” he said, adding that an estimated 70 percent of Walmart shoppers are from outside the city, too.
“Lebanon has factories which employee people who travel here for work every day. They do their shopping here before they go home to Smith, DeKalb, Trousdale or other counties,” Craighead said.
After property tax reductions, increased sales tax could generate around $2.7 million which would meet the needs of the city, according to Craighead. He said that priorities include “aggressive paving of our streets,” a fire hall in the Leeville Pike/Highway 109 area and continued mitigation of flooding issues.
In a letter to the editor, Craighead described the city being sued on occasion because of unmaintained sidewalks. He also wrote about how a fire hall would help residents in the Leeville Pike/Hwy. 109 area.
“Residents of this area in cases of emergency have response times of 15-plus minutes compared to the average 3-4 minute response time for the rest of the city. Due to distances needed to travel to the area, the ISO rating is a 9. The rest of the city has an ISO rating of a 2,” he said. “Due to this higher rating, the homeowner insurance for some is doubled. If we are planning to attract new growth in both residential and business to this area, we must provide this service.”
Other ways Craighead anticipates the half-cent increase could help the city are by keeping services like garbage pickup free and possibly bring back the weekly chipper service.
“It is time to address plans for our future to make our city better. As many citizens have told me when talking to them about the referendum – their comments have been, ‘This plan becomes a no-brainer.”
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.