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Tax referendum may be a long shot

The city’s request for a quarter-cent sales tax referendum faces an uphill battle in a Legislature resistant to local tax measures.


Hendersonville City Council on Thursday formally voted to ask the General Assembly to allow a referendum in the city on a quarter-cent sales tax. The tax, which would raise about $2 million if voters authorized it, would fund streets, sidewalks and greenways. 
“We’ve been working with Rep. McGrady about introducing a bill,” City Manager John Connet said. 
Connet and council members said the city is limited in revenue options to the property tax and that a local option sales tax would spread the burden to visitors and tourists who don’t pay city property taxes.
“We know we have a large number of people that come in and use our infrastructure,” Connet said, “and all of that cost should not be based on the (city) property taxpayer.”
“I’ve to a lot of people of all ages and I haven’t gotten any opposed to it,” Councilman Ron Stephens said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of support for it.”
Voters may not get the chance to decide. Hendersonville legislators were noncommittal at best in comments to the Hendersonville Lightning. The city asked for a referendum last year, too, and failed to get one.
“I’ll file the bill as requested,” Rep. Chuck McGrady said. “I advised (Connet) there’s not a great opportunity.” He said he hasn’t pushed the bill yet. “I have not had that discussion with the finance (committee) people. Last year we just couldn’t get it moving.”

"The local option sales tax bill is similar to a bill that was passed by one House committee last session, but wasn’t heard in a second committee to which it was referred," McGrady said in his newsletter to constituents last week. "It could meet a similar fate this year, since legislators are hesitant to authorize local governments to collect additional taxes."

 Sen. Chuck Edwards expressed little more confidence in the bill's chances.

“It is not a topic I have studied yet,” he said. “I would like to see first that it could make it out of the House before it made it in the Senate. Typically this type of legislation has a very tough time making it through.”