The Cleveland City Council voted 5-2 in support of placing the referendum on the Aug. 2 ballot, but did not offer support for its passage. Also, the Bradley County School Board has not supported it as a body, but board chair Charlie Rose and Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel have spoken publicly in support of the tax increase.
Bradley County Republican Party Chair David Smith said the local party traditionally hasn’t taken a stand on issues, “but we felt it was time to speak up.”
He said the National Republican Party stands firm in supporting low taxes and recognizes low taxes and economic prosperity go hand in hand. The resolution states, “Republicans across this great nation are fighting against liberal economic ideology, higher taxes and out of control spending at all levels of our government. Bradley County is currently $78 million in debt with $64 million of that debt being education-related; and the estimated generated revenue from the wheel tax dollars will simply be a revenue stream used to borrow an additional $32 million and place a huge debt upon future generations.”
Bradley County Republican Party Vice-Chair Debbie Williams said, “There has to be another solution. Have we not learned from our national debt debacle? We went through this debate in Bradley County back in 2009 with the sales tax increase. In reality, only one year of the sales tax increase went toward educational projects. The wheel tax is being sold in much the same way. It will only be used to borrow $32 million the first year. Schools will not see additional funds after that first year. Does anyone truly believe that digging a deeper hole for ourselves, via more debt, is the answer?”
The resolution stated, “The wheel tax is being falsely marketed to residents of Bradley County as necessary for the functioning of local schools; and the wheel tax will not be designated to schools each year, but only the first year; and it is the opinion of the Bradley County Republican Party that an implementation of a wheel tax is premature; and all viable alternatives must be adequately explored, and expenditures prioritized and deemed as essential ... the Bradley County Republican Party strongly opposes the wheel tax placed on the Aug. 2 ballot and asks other Republicans to stand in opposition to higher taxes and massive amounts of debt for future generations of our county.”
The 2011 U.S. Census estimates the population of Bradley County at 100,068, which is up from the 98,963 people counted in the 2010 Census. Both school systems have reported increased growth, with the city school system reporting 340 new students over the last 18 months.