By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
UPDATE--Lebanon City Attorney Andy Wright said on Wednesday proposed sales tax ordinance would return to the council's agenda on Aug. 21, after conferring with the Wilson County Election Commission, in order to place the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Wilson County Administrator of Elections Phillip Warren told Wright the ordinance must be passed 60 days before that date, which falls on Friday, Sept. 7.
"Aquestion received on that date or soon after can be included on the November ballot," Warren told Wright in an email.
REPORTED EARLIER--Lebanon City Councilors were in unanimous agreement Tuesday night about deferring an ordinance on second reading to increase the local sales tax by 0.5 percent in order to hold the required referendum on Nov. 6 when most voters will visit the polls.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston, who presided over the meeting as Mayor Pro Tem with Mayor Philip Craighead out of town, said the original target date was Aug. 2, the date for a County/State General Primary election. The tax increase would raise the sales taxes from 2.25 percent, locally to 2.75 percent, making it 9.75 percent, the highest allowable amount in Tennessee.
Wright explained if the council passed the ordinance Tuesday night, the "clock would be running" on the Wilson County Election Commission to hold the referendum.
"We would have to look at doing a special called public referendum, which we don't want to do," Wright said.
Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino and Ward 1 councilor Alex Buhler said it was more logical for the city to place the referendum on the Nov. 6 general election, when citizens will be voting for city positions as well as the Presidential election. They felt it was the right thing to do to hold the referendum at a time when more voters would be at the polls.
"I think it's the right thing to do to put it in November when the Presidential election is going on and more people will be voting," Cesternino said.
Wright explained that he was directed to shoot for the Aug. 2 date to potentially capture back-to-school shopping sales taxes. He said if the referendum vote was in favor of the increase, the city could receive additional revenue during the busy shopping month of August and be in good shape to capture holiday shopping taxes as well.
Once the measure is approved by the council, Wilson County Commission would have a 40-day window to pass its own measure to raise the sales taxes countywide. If that occurred, the city and county would split the additional revenues and if the county chose not to pass its own resolution, the city will receive all new revenue from the sales tax increase.
Wright indicated the council would have to wait at least until one of the April meetings to pass the ordinance to place the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Also during the meeting, the council expressed concerns about starting the next budget process for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Cesternino pointed out they haven't seen any budget proposals as of this time. Commissioner of Finance and Revenue Russell Lee indicated he wanted to hold a work session before the council's April 3 meeting to discuss two enterprise funds.
"I don't want to piecemeal the budget like we've been doing," Buhler said.
Cesternino requested the council receive a department-by-department log of their 2011-2012 budget, the actual closing figure and what that department is asking for in the 2012-2013 budget, in order to gauge where each department stands. Lee said he would send budget proposals to the councilors at least by Monday, April 2.
"The mayor is out of town and I'd like to have him look at it before I send it to you," Lee said.
The council requested at least a week to review the rather large budget documents before meeting to discuss the matter in detail.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.