The Wilson County Commission voted unanimously Monday night to put a one-half percent sales tax increase into the hands of voters, this time tying the increase to higher salaries for county teachers.

At the monthly commission meeting, District 6 Commissioner Kenny Reich made a motion to amend the resolution so that any additional revenue would be designated for teacher pay raises. The original resolution did not specify a use for the increased money.

If passed the county sales tax would increase to 9.75 percent from 9.25 percent. The one-half percent increase is the maximum increase allowed under state law. If passed the sales tax on a $100 item would increase 50 cents.

The sales tax decision will be on the ballot next March 3 in the state primary election.

After the vote, County Mayor Randall Hutto said that his office had already been working with four groups on potential campaigns to advocate and educate the public on the referendum.

“We want the public to know what a ‘yes’ means and what a ‘no’ means,” Hutto said. ‘We’ve been proactive.”

Hutto acknowledged the defeat of the sales tax referendum in November 2018.

“We only had 54 days (to inform the public) last time. We have 106 this time,” Hutto said. He urged commissioners to speak to civic groups about the particulars of a potential sales tax hike.

“Teacher raises are a national crisis right now. It’s important that we get out what it’s for,” Hutto said.

Director of Wilson County Schools Dr Donna Wright, echoed Hutto’s sentiments after the meeting.

“I hope the voters will pay attention to what this body and the board of education has referenced. That half-cent is specifically earmarked for classroom teacher raises if we are successful,” Wright said. 

During her report to the commission, Wright referenced recent data indicating that the number of college students declaring as education majors continue to decrease.

“It’s a free agent market out there where the highest bidder wins,’ Wright said.