By Sinclaire Sparkman

A sales tax increase was close to approval in a referendum Nov. 6, but a difference of 2,225 votes showed the Wilson County sales tax will not increase from 9.25 to 9.75 percent.

Votes came in at 25,199 for and 27,424 against the sales tax increase in the unofficial tally.

The increase was intended to bolster funding for local schools and a proposed Wilson County Jail expansion and fill city coffers for upcoming expenses. Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said it was not to pay off any current debt, but a proactive step.

“This was a call to let the people decide how to pay for a future debt, not for a debt we have today,” Hutto said. “When the next debt rolls around, whether it be a jail or school or other expense, your options have just been narrowed. And we rely on now the adequate facilities tax, the property tax or possibly the wheel tax. The people have spoken, and now it’s down to three.”

Finance director Aaron Maynard said a wheel tax would be subject to referendum, as well.

“At the end of the day, we’re just happy that people had the chance to vote,” Maynard said. “This was about being proactive and trying to be out ahead. We don’t have a school on the table that’s not funded, and the next thing is the expansion of the jail.”

Of the current 9.25-percent sales tax rate, the state gets 7 percent, and Wilson County keeps 2.25 percent. The tax revenue is then split between educational services and the city in which the sale took place, per state law. 

For example, a business in a city collects and remits $1,000 in sales tax. The state would get about $757. The remaining $243 is split with half to educational services and the other half to the respective city.

During the last fiscal year, sales tax accounted for about 9 percent of the county’s revenues.

A half-cent sales tax increase would have generated an increase of about $11 million in additional revenue annually with $5.2 million granted to Wilson County and $5.8 million granted to the city in which the sale took place or the Lebanon Special School District.

With no increase in sales tax, the county will likely seek other methods to increase funding for school and jail construction.