Chaz Molder

Early voting has already kicked off in both Maury and Williamson counties, giving residents the opportunity to choose who may represent their respective parties in the upcoming presidential election. 

On a smaller scale, however, voters will also get the chance to vote on a referendum that would see the sales tax rate in Maury County increase from 2.25 to 2.75%. The referendum was placed on the ballot as a measure to help support Maury County Public Schools - a school district that has been plagued by financial struggles for years, leading to risks of teacher layoffs and cut programs.

In an effort to appeal to voters, Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder released a statement on social media, urging residents to consider supporting the sales tax increase, and to view the referendum as a “vote for our future, our kids’ future, and for our community’s future.”

“There will be those who disagree with this referendum out of a philosophical unwillingness to support any form of tax increase, and I understand that,” Molder wrote. “But, I also understand that I would prefer my property tax rate to remain where it is versus a sales tax increase of 50 cents per $100 I spend. There are those who do not have kids in public schools or schools at all, and believe it would be unfair to be burdened with this increase, and I understand that. But, I also understand that any investment in our public schools and the future of my community is an investment I can get behind.”

What are the current sales tax rates, and how much of an impact would this increase have?

Maury County currently has a sales tax rate of 2.25 percent, which, when combined with the state sales tax rate of 7 percent, comes out to a total sales tax rate of 9.25 percent. At this rate, a $50 purchase would net the purchaser $4.63 in sales taxes.

Were voters to approve the sales tax rate increase from 2.25 to 2.75 percent - making the total sales tax rate 9.75 percent, the same as Williamson County - that same $50 purchase would net $4.88 in sales taxes, for an increase of 25 cents.

At the current sales tax rate, the city of Spring Hill generates roughly $6 million. Were the increase adopted, that number would increase to roughly $7.62 million, with half of the revenue going towards schools, and the other half going towards the city.

Also in his statement, Molder said the proceeds from the sales tax would “immediately assist the two most immediate needs in Maury County: McDowell Elementary School and Spring Hill High School.”

The referendum being placed on this year’s ballot is in large part due to Spring Hill city leaders, who in April of 2019, approved a referendum request to increase sales taxes on the Maury County side of the city as a means to support both Maury County schools and its nearly $200 million worth of infrastructure projects. Spring Hill city leaders have made clear that were the referendum to fail, they would then pursue a city-wide referendum on a potential sales tax increase.

‘Issues that are important to the greater good’

“I understand there may be some concern to provide any benefit to the school system given the uncertainty of direction,” Molder wrote. “I find this logic hard to understand. We should not punish our children, nor hinder the future of our community because of actions and decisions out of their control. My first grade son couldn't tell you what the school board did at its last meeting, but he could tell you that his school is the oldest in the county and needs improvement.”

Maury County residents can vote on the sales tax increase during early voting at the Election Commission Office in Columbia, located at 1207 Tradewinds Drive. Early voting will continue through Tuesday, Feb. 25, Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. Those unable to make it to early voting will have their last chance to vote on the sales tax increase on Tuesday, March 3 on primary election day.

“Elizabeth Fitzhugh Molder and I will be proud to cast our votes in favor of the sales tax referendum on March 3, 2020,” Molder wrote. “This vote will be a vote for our future, our kids' future, and for our community's future.”