School systems in Tennessee and beyond are experiencing substantial budget cuts and ongoing financial strains.
Hawkins County in particular is burdened with the $9.6 million cost of HVAC system replacements in its two public high schools.
One county commissioner is turning to a potential Tennessee sports betting tax revenue shift to offset these maintenance expenses.
Potential adjustments to Tennessee sports betting tax initiatives
Chairman Rick Brewer submitted a resolution requesting the Tennessee General Assembly adopt House Bill 48.
HB 48 was originally introduced in January by Representative David Hawk, R-Greeneville. The bill aims to funnel 80% of sports betting tax revenue into facility maintenance initiatives at K-12 public schools statewide.
The Hawkins County Commission approved Brewer’s resolution last Monday, Feb. 22.
During Monday’s approval, Matt Hixson, director of schools for the Hawkins County School System, shared his support for HB 48.
“As you know, most lottery funds go to higher education and other purposes. This would specifically direct money from sports gambling, which is growing in the state of Tennessee and was recently made legal, and would divert 80% of those profits to the purposes of K-12 education — specifically for maintenance and construction of facilities. We do support it, and we want to thank Commissioner Brewer and Representative Hawk for their work on this.”
Where does sports betting tax revenue go now?
During the first three months of Tennessee’s legal sports betting journey, the state accumulated $9.8 million in privilege tax.
The tax is then divvied up between three separate state initiatives.
The Tennessee Lottery For Education account took its 80% share, totaling $7.84 million.
Local road and infrastructure projects gathered 15%, or $1.47 million in revenue. Meanwhile, responsible gaming and addiction treatment programs gathered the remaining 5%, resulting in $490,000 worth of funding.
Brewer’s January plea to the Board of Education estimated that this the additional funding could amount to $25 per K-12 public school student each year. In Hawkins County, this would total over $150,000 annually.
Hixson backed Brewer’s efforts saying,
“Commissioner Brewer was one of the first commissioners to come to me after I came to Hawkins County and expressed an interest in supporting bills that would divert more lottery funds to K-12. That’s a lot of work, but this is a step in the right direction.”
Current Lottery For Education account benefactors
As it is now, higher education initiatives receive the entire allotment of the Tennessee Lottery’s education tax revenue. Public elementary, middle, and high schools, on the other hand, see none of it.
Many state representatives, like Brewer, believe primary and secondary education should receive equal assistance.
Unfortunately, any shift of lottery revenue away from higher education calls for an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution. This process could take years of litigation.
Instead, school systems continue to search for an alternative. Brewer remains optimistic, saying, “Sports gambling is an opportunity for us to finally, hopefully get some money coming back to public schools.”
Proponents plan to forward the resolution to all Tennessee representatives and senators in petition of their support.
The Sullivan County Board of Education took a slightly different avenue to approve their own resolution after the district’s school budget struggled to meet minimum funding requirements.
Regardless of the approach, one point remains clear – Tennessee school systems are in dire need of funding.
A shift in Tennessee sports betting tax initiatives could hold the answer.