The Knoxville Focus polled just over 500 voters two months ago and asked the same question in this week’s poll: “Knox County schools Superintendent James McIntyre has requested $35 million in new revenue for the school system. This would require an additional 35 cents or 14.83% increase in property taxes. Do you oppose or support the tax increase?”
Two months ago just over 74% of voters opposed a property tax increase. Every district in the city and county opposed increasing property taxes for the schools. After two months of intense campaigning on behalf of the tax increase by the Superintendent and his allies, the numbers remain virtually the same. There has been some movement in some of the districts with the Fourth District creeping towards supporting the tax increase. Two months ago, almost 60% of voters inside the Fourth District opposed the tax increase; now only approximately 52% oppose it. The Fourth District is one of the most affluent districts in Knoxville and Knox County and includes Sequoyah Hills. It is hardly surprising Superintendent McIntyre’s budget proposal would find favor inside the Fourth District as it is home to many employees of the University of Tennessee, as well as the business community elite.
In stark contrast, the least affluent communities in Knoxville, the First and Second Districts also showed some movement, although not in favor of McIntyre’s tax increase. The First, which is primarily home to Knoxville’s African-American community, registered over 78% opposition to increasing the property tax. Two months ago, 77% residents of the First District were opposed to an increase in the property tax. Likewise voters in the Second District, which is largely a community of working class and retired folks, proved to be more solidly against increasing property taxes. Just over 79% of residents of the Second District are opposed to increasing property taxes, a jump from just over 75% two months ago.
The sales job done by McIntyre and his surrogates doesn’t seem to have worked in the Third District, which is comprised largely of folks inside the City of Knoxville, as are the First and Second Districts. Almost 83% of voters inside the Third District are opposed to increasing the property tax, a jump of nearly 5 points from two months ago when 77% of voters were opposed to increasing the property tax.
Opposition to increasing the property tax did drop, albeit very slightly, inside the Fifth District, which is centered around the Town of Farragut and points west. Two months ago, just over 67% of voters were opposed to increasing the property tax; currently just over 66% remain opposed to increasing the property tax. Opposition to the tax increase also dropped in the Sixth District, which is the northwestern part of Knox County, including the Powell and Karns communities. Roughly 63% of voters in the Sixth District are opposed to increasing the property tax, falling from just over 74% two months ago, a drop of quite nearly 8 points.
In the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Districts, the results were pretty much the same with one notable exception: the South Knoxville based Ninth District. Opposition to increasing the property tax was the overwhelming sentiment in both the Seventh and Eighth Districts, with the opposition rising slightly in the Seventh and barely diminishing in the Eighth. The biggest movement in the entire poll occurred in South Knoxville where almost 90% of voters say they are opposed to increasing the property tax. Previously only 74% of South Knoxvillians had said they were opposed to McIntyre’s tax increase, but two months later the opposition in South Knoxville has grown to almost fully 90%.
The number of people polled on both occasions is almost identical; that holds true even inside each of the districts. Not a single member of the Knox County Commission can vote for the property tax increase and truthfully claim he or she is representing the majority will of his or her constituents.
Several well-heeled individuals and the Chamber of Commerce realize the sales campaign by Superintendent McIntyre and his allies has failed to convince Knox Countians of the need to raise taxes for schools. So they have hired virtually every PR firm in town and a barrage of TV commercials supporting a tax increase are expected to start airing shortly, if they haven’t already. The purpose of the television advertising campaign is to prop up Superintendent McIntyre and convince Commissioners the political fallout won’t be as severe as they fear.
According to these polls, the vast majority of Knoxvillians and Knox Countians remain solidly against increasing the property tax.
If you want to register your own opinion with your County Commissioner, you can reach your Commissioner through the County Commission office, 215-2534.