UPDATE: The Hamilton County Commission shot down a proposed 2020 wheel tax referendum in a 5-3 vote on Wednesday. If the referendum passed, voters could have decided whether to create a $60 tax on cars.

The Commission proposed putting the tax on the ballot to fund teacher pay raises. District 7 Commissioner Sabrina Smedley says they were rushing the process.

“I need to know what all the options are and let's see other areas that are funding education and having more success than we are,” she said.

District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey doesn't think his constituents wanted the tax, but he voted in favor of it Wednesday.

"We're in a better position to make decisions, make wiser decisions, I believe, because we have so much more information,” Mackey said.

For the commissioners who voted against the referendum, too much was uncertain, including whether or not the money would actually benefit teachers.

“There would have to be an agreement in place with the Department of Education that that's what they would do with the money and we heard here today that that is not in place,” Smedley said. "If we really value our teachers and really want to give them a pay increase that should have happened this past budget."

The vote was 5 to 3 against the referendum. Commissioners Boyd, Fairbanks, Smedley, Martin and Bankston voted against it. Commissioners Sharpe, Geter and Mackey voted in favor. Commissioner Baker was absent.  

PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County commissioners are weighing in on whether to let voters decide if they want to implement a $60 wheel tax that would go towards giving teachers a raise.


Commissioners discussed the topic significantly during Wednesday's meeting, including the amount, when the referendum should occur and whether all of the money should go to teachers or not.

But one thing they all seemed to agree on was letting voters ultimately decide.

"The resolution here is to allow the people of Hamilton County to address how we fund educators salaries or wages," District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe said during Wednesday's meeting.

The topic drew a big discussion for a number of reasons.

"If we're going to let the voters decide, which I support 100%, I would really like to give the voters more options," District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Smedley said.

An example of more options includes a decreased wheel tax rate.

But District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd argued that it's the commission's job to see the whole picture when it comes to funding, not just a piece of it.

"We as commissioners have more to do than think about funding education. We need to fund infrastructure, we need to fund jails for the sheriff, we need to fund roads," Boyd said.

But others said investing in education completes the bigger picture.

"We don't have the workforce. I work with the Southeastern Tennessee Development Corporation, all of these manufacturers say the same thing. We don't have the workforce because we're not investing in these schools," District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey said.

Others believe if voters are going to decide, it shouldn't be done in March but in November's election, where the turnout is greater.


"If we really want to hear people at the kitchen table make a decision, then let's get a whole lot of kitchen tables. Let's don't just have a picnic table. Let's get a whole long Thanksgiving table with all kinds of thousands and thousands of people making a decision. And that will happen in November," District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin said.

Commissioners are expected to vote on this resolution next Wednesday.

They will also have the option of amending the resolution too.

Stay with WRCB for updates on this story.