By Mandy Shunnarah
Special to The North Jefferson News
Blount County residents expressed their discontent Saturday with the 1.5-percent tax the City of Warrior recently imposed on businesses.
The meeting, held at Logan’s General Store in Hayden, was attended by at least 200 residents and business owners.
On Dec. 7, the Warrior City Council imposed a usage tax on all businesses within its police jurisdiction. The tax amounts to 3 percent for businesses within the city limits and 1.5 percent for businesses outside the city, which includes a 1.5-mile stretch in Blount County.
The purpose of the tax is to generate revenue for the city’s general fund. The tax takes effect in March 2010.
Several speakers, including Blount County District Attorney Tommy Rountree, kept the crowd energized on a cold day. Rountree assured the crowd that a lawsuit was coming, and they “haven’t seen a fight yet.”
Probate judge and chairman of the Blount County Commission David Standridge was another leader who spoke against the tax.
“We are unified against this effort,” he said. “Warrior police typically only come to Hayden for backup purposes.”
One protester shouted, “We don’t need anything Warrior’s got.” Another shouted, “They back us up, we back them up, so why don’t we start taxing them?”
Other speakers expressed that if the 1.5-percent tax is to be collected, Blount County residents should receive others services, such as street repair and sanitation.
Standridge said that a considerable amount of the Warrior’s revenue comes from Blount County residents, who are boycotting Warrior businesses.
“When somebody creeps in, it’s just the first step,” he said. “Warrior can’t survive without the people of Blount County.”
Teresa Turner, an employee at Logan’s General Store in Hayden, was at Saturday’s meeting.
“They’re in a money crunch and this is a loophole for revenue,” she said.
After the demonstration, a petition was made available to sign. It was to be shown to Warrior businesses as proof of Hayden’s unrest, followed by a trip to Warrior City Hall.
“The message is getting across already. Enough’s enough and we’re not going to take this,” said Standridge.
Whether by lawsuit, boycott, incorporation, or other means, Sen. Scott Beason, R-17th, said “this is eventually going to be made right. You can count on that.”
Beason said on Tuesday that even though he voted several years ago on the bill that allows municipalities to tax their police jurisdictions, he said that Warrior is “inappropriately using that power they have on a number of levels.”
He said there are three reasons Warrior should not enforce the tax: The Warrior Police Department provides only backup services in Blount County; the people of Blount County do not want the tax; and Blount County officials have asked Warrior not to tax their county.
“I’m on the side of the folks in Blount County on this issue,” he said.
One possible solution is to incorporate the 1.5 miles of rural Blount County that fall under Warrior’s police jurisdiction into the city limits of Hayden, so Warrior could not have the authority to tax the businesses.
Another issue people discussed at Monday’s Warrior City Council meeting was for the are to become a separate incorporated municipality itself.
However, either measure would take legislation.
— North Jefferson News reporter Melanie Patterson contributed to this report.
By Mandy Shunnarah