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Coffee County Board of Education v. City of Tullahoma

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 23, 2018

COFFEE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION
v.
CITY OF TULLAHOMA

          Session December 6, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Coffee County No. 2014-CV-179 Vanessa Jackson, Judge

         This is a controversy between the City of Tullahoma and Coffee County about the proper distribution of a portion of liquor by the drink revenues collected in Tullahoma. The trial court ruled that the distribution provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-306(2)(A) were not effective in Coffee County and that the statute was ambiguous. The trial court resorted to the legislative history to determine that Tullahoma should keep the funds addressed in Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-306(2)(A). We do not find the statutory language ambiguous and reverse the decision of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed

          Eric J. Burch, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Coffee County Board of Education.

          Mark E. McGrady and Kristin Berexa, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Tullahoma.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 57, Chapter 4 addresses the consumption of alcoholic beverages on premises, commonly known as liquor by the drink. Chapter 4 is "effective in any jurisdiction which authorizes the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in a referendum." Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-103(a)(1). A tax of fifteen percent (15%) of the sales price of all alcoholic beverages sold for consumption on the premises is assessed. Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-301(c). The tax is collected by the retailer from the consumer and forwarded to the commissioner of revenue. Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-302(1). The commissioner distributes the taxes as follows:[1]

(1) Fifty percent (50%) to the general fund to be earmarked for education purposes; and
(2) Fifty percent (50%) to the local political subdivision as follows:
(A) One half (½) of the proceeds shall be expended and distributed in the same manner as the county property tax for schools is expended and distributed; provided, however, that except in counties having a population of not less than twenty-seven thousand nine hundred (27, 900) nor more than twenty-seven thousand nine hundred twenty (27, 920), according to the 1980 federal census or any subsequent federal census, any proceeds expended and distributed to municipalities which do not operate their own school systems separate from the county are required to remit one half (½) of their proceeds of the gross receipts liquor-by-the-drink tax to the county school fund; and
(B) The other one half (½) shall be distributed as follows:
(i) Collections of gross receipts collected in unincorporated areas, to the ...

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