The steps required to get sales tax referendum on the ballot

J. H. Osborne • May 8, 2020 at 3:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — What will it take to get a referendum on the ballot for Sullivan County voters to say yea or nay to an increase in the local option sales and use tax?  The Times News turned to Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Jason Booher for answers to that question, and here is his response:

• A referendum to increase the local option sales and use tax can be held upon adoption of a resolution or ordinance by a county legislative body or any incorporated city or town.

• The maximum rate of the local option portion of the sales and use tax is 2.75% on the first $1,600 of the sale or use.

• The resolution or ordinance must be passed at least twice at two or more consecutive public meetings held on separate days.

• A notice of the agenda for each meeting must be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation not less than seven days before the first of the meetings.

• The referendum may be held with either the Aug. 6 or Nov. 3 election.

• Notice of adoption of a resolution or ordinance to call for the referendum must be submitted to the Election Commission no later than 75 days prior to Election Day.

• The notification deadline for the Aug. 6 election is May 23.

• The notification deadline for the Nov. 3 election is Aug. 20.

• All citizens of the county, including those residing in a city or town, will be eligible to vote if the proposed rate increase exceeds the current rate of the incorporated city or town.

• To gain passage, the referendum would only need to receive a simple majority of all citizens eligible to vote. The vote would not be segregated by incorporated and non-incorporated residents.

Considering those last two points, and the fact the Sullivan County Commission is considering a referendum to increase the local sales and use tax to 2.75% countywide (bringing every locality within the county to 9.75%, including the state sales tax of 7%), all county voters would be eligible to vote on the referendum, including those living in Kingsport, Bristol, Bluff City and Johnson City.

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