Unpaid liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue upsets Wilson County parents
Reported By Joseph Pleasant, Reporter - bio | email
WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. -
Wilson County parents are fuming that money owed to the school district has gone uncollected for years.
Tax revenue generated from liquor by the drink sales are supposed to be split evenly between the county and the school system.
However, that has not happened since liquor by the drink sales began in Wilson County, in 1991.
Wilson County Schools Director Dr. Tim Setterlund estimates the school system is owed around $900,000.
Parents who spoke with News 2 were angry that while they paid various fees, purchased extra school supplies and helped stage fundraisers as hundreds of thousands of dollars went uncollected.
"Where did the money go?" Wendy Verdugo asked.
Verdugo had two children go through the Wilson County School system and now has a grandchild in kindergarten.
"Its unfair to the kids who maybe could have done things that they didn't get to do because they didn't have the money," she said. "Come to find out the money has been there and no one has gotten it. What about the parents who really struggle because they don't have a lot of money?
Waulinda Palmer said she just finished a fundraiser for her daughter's school. She said the burden all the fees put on parents is especially hard on her.
"I am a single parent, so it makes it a big difference," she said. "You are playing a double role."
Wilson County is one of at least three Middle Tennessee school districts and 20 statewide who are owed back tax money dating back several years.
Schools in Robertson and Sumner counties also have unpaid tax revenue.
In Robertson County, the schools are owed and estimated $207,000 and in Sumner County the schools are owed around $1.5 million.
The Tennessee Education Association said that missing money could have eased budget problems for many school systems, including Sumner County.
The start of school was delayed because of a budget impasse in 2012.
"It is terribly unfortunate that this has happened and it's been allowed to go on so long," TEA President Gera Summerford said. "Investing in education is always the right thing to do and to think that this money has not been available for this purpose is really disheartening."
Summerford said teachers are also frustrated because they have faced layoffs and having to purchase school supplies out of pocket.
"Teachers are very much impacted by this, by supplies that they buy, but also it could have impacted salary and benefits," she said. "There are a lot of different things when you look at budget that could have made a difference."
The Tennessee Comptroller has convened a group of representatives from the Tennessee Municipal League, Tennessee County Services Association, Tennessee School Boards Association and the Comptroller's staff to study all of the counties where liquor by the drink sales tax revenues were not distributed.
The group has not determined how long the group will take to study the problem.
Wilson County's schools are in contact with officials from Mount Juliet and Lebanon discussing repayment options.
Other counties are doing the same, though none have said when or how repayment will begin.