The latest poll conducted by The Knoxville Focus asked voters, “The current sales tax rate in Knox County is 9.25% or $9.25 per $100 spent. Do you support or oppose increasing the Knox County sales tax rate?”
The results reveal one of the most lop-sided results since The Focus started conducting polls. Almost 500 voters were surveyed and the overwhelming response was a resounding “NO.”
Superintendent James McIntyre has proposed a budget for the school system that will require a property tax increase of at least 35 cents; a previous poll showed a huge majority of Knox Countians are opposed to a property tax increase as well. Some Commissioners, most notably Commission Chairman Mike Hammond and South Knoxville Commissioner Mike Brown, have suggested perhaps increasing the sales tax for education would be a better idea. Both Brown and Hammond live in South Knoxville, yet less than 10% of South Knoxvillians support the notion of increasing the sale tax.
Every district inside Knox County rejected the idea of increasing the sales tax, including those inside the City of Knoxville. The highest support for a sales tax increase came from the First District, which is largely comprised of Knoxville’s African-American community, yet only just over 20% of First District residents indicated they would support an increase in the current sales tax rate.
The Eighth District was the community in Knox County most opposed to a sales tax with a whopping 98.18% saying they do not favor increasing the sales tax rate.
Knoxville Focus publisher Steve Hunley admitted he was surprised by the margins, even in his own community.
“I thought most people would be opposed to increasing the sales tax, but I didn’t think it would be anything like what it was,” Hunley said. “Of course several of the results from our polls have surprised me, some more than others.”
Any effort to increase the sales tax in Knox County would have to go before the voters in referendum and these results don’t bode well for its passage. The schools currently receive about 72 cents out of every sales tax dollar collected inside the City of Knoxville and Knox County; Farragut only gives 50 cents out of every sales tax dollar collected.
For those politicians who think merely placing the issue before the voters will spare them the wrath of an angry public, these figures ought to raise more than a few eyebrows.