Can the school board count to seven?
What is the likelihood that seven votes can be found on the Knox County Commission to override County Mayor Tim Burchett’s veto of a proposed tax increase to add $35 million a year to the Knox County schools budget?
The Knox Area Chamber Partnership and various other business groups have advocated for the increase in the schools budget and the pressure is on County Commission. But there is also pressure from the public not to raise taxes.
In case you were wondering, should a county commissioner resign from office suddenly due to an arrest, it does not change the vote. You still need seven to override a veto even if one chair is vacant. It is a supermajority of the “Commission,” not the number of commissioners present. It is also unlikely that Commissioner Jeff Ownby will resign soon or that a pro-tax vote could be appointed in time.
For background on the dynamics of the vote: There are seven members of Commission who were elected to six-year terms in 2010. The longer terms were in order to stagger Commission elections in future years after the Commission was cut from 19 members to 11. It ensures that all the commissioners won’t be replaced at once. The seven commissioners who do not have to face the voters again until 2016: Sam McKenzie, Brad Anders, Dave Wright, Dr. Richard Briggs, Amy Broyles, Mike Brown, and Jeff Ownby. If any of them are inclined to support the tax increase can they assume the voters will have forgotten the vote by 2016?
There are three lame-duck commissioners, due to term limits, who do not have to run for re-election. Those in a second term include Tony Norman, R. Larry Smith, and Mike Hammond. Smith and Hammond may want to run for another office so that will play into their calculations.
Ed Shouse is in his first four-year term.
Our best guess is that at this point the school board can count to six. That would be enough to pass the increase. But they would need another vote to override the veto. Burchett campaigned on no new taxes and got 88 percent of the vote. But the people who write checks for political candidates are solidly in favor of the tax increase for schools.