ABOVE: From left, city of Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, Williamson, Inc. Director of Government Affairs Kel McDowell, and city of Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, pose with their awards from the GNRC. // SUBMITTED
The Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC) has recognized the Williamson County partnership that led to a successful February 2018 referendum for funding to facilitate school construction/renovation projects.
The Marshall S. Stuart Memorial Award for Intergovernmental Cooperation was presented to the Williamson County Government, Williamson County Association of REALTORS® (WCAR), Williamson, Inc., plus the municipal governments of Brentwood, Fairview, Franklin, Nolensville, Spring Hill, and Thompson’s Station.
According to Williamson, Inc. CEO Matt Largen, the award represents the “hard work of a broad coalition of community leaders who stepped up to create the first step to fully funding our number-one economic asset, our school systems. I want to thank the Williamson County Association of REALTORS® specifically for their willingness to lead on this important issue. Their work led to the overwhelming community support of this key initiative.”
This award honors local governments or regional organizations which have exhibited excellence, outstanding accomplishment, achievement, or innovation in intergovernmental cooperation and coordination. Marshall S. Stuart, served as the first Executive Director of the GNRC from 1970 to 1985, after a long career as Mayor of Burns, Tennessee, and Dickson County Judge.
“Our great schools are one of the top reasons that people move into this county and our Association and its 2,800 plus members want to continue to support our schools in the most fair, broad-based way we can,” Bo Patten, Government Affairs Director for the Williamson County Association of REALTORS® said. “WCAR will continue to seek ways to engage our county leaders, our membership, and the public for the greater good of our community.”
On February 6, 2018, Williamson County held a single-issue referendum for a 0.5% increase in local sales tax to provide much-needed funding for school construction/renovation projects. Recognizing the importance of the community’s high-ranking public-school systems to both work-ability and livability, the community partners came together to ensure the realization of a key component towards long-term education funding.
Efforts began in the preceding months through the initiative and outreach of Williamson County leadership. The plan itself hinged on five of the county’s municipalities pledging, upon approval of the referendum, their portion of the new sales tax proceeds for three years, projected to total about $23 million annually. In turn, those new revenues go towards 25 school construction/renovation projects across the county. The sixth Williamson County municipality, Fairview, had previously implemented the 2.75% local sales tax being proposed. In lieu of that commitment, the City of Fairview agreed to contribute comparable sums via adequate facilities tax to the overall effort. After the agreed-upon three-year period, the school systems will receive half of all new sales tax revenues for their operating budgets in perpetuity.
Upon the Williamson County Commission’s unanimous approval to hold a sales tax referendum, both Williamson, Inc. and WCAR collaborated on a voter education and mobilization campaign. Ultimately, the measure passed by a 2-to-1 margin, with roughly 66% of voters in favor versus 34% opposed, winning support in all 43 voting precincts. For comparison, Williamson County’s previous countywide tax referendum, a 2004-wheel tax vote, was rejected with only 28% support.
Michael Skipper, executive director for the GNRC stated, “Marshall Stuart believed deeply in the importance of regional planning and intergovernmental cooperation. The partnership among the county, cities, Williamson County Association of REALTORS®, and Williamson, Inc. exemplified this belief, and is a best practice for communities around the region.”