City Leaders To Come Out For Countywide Sales Tax Hike

By Bill Dries

The campaign for the half-cent countywide sales tax hike on the Nov. 6 ballot kicks off Monday, Oct. 1, with support from two city leaders who had opposed the ballot question.

At a press conference at the County Building, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and City Council member Shea Flinn are expected to announce that they now back the plan that voters in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County vote on in the Nov. 6 elections.

Wharton and Flinn had both opposed the move to the ballot by the Shelby County Commission because they had plans for a citywide sales tax hike that would have meant $47 million in revenue for the city and probably a property tax roll back next spring when budget season begins.

The city council put the half-percent sales tax hike for the city on the Nov. 6 ballot first. Then the Shelby County Commission voted to put its own half cent countywide sales tax hike proposal on the same ballot. The action trumped the council’s move as well as sales tax hikes approved in the August elections by voters in five of the six suburban towns and cities to fund municipal school districts all six are in the process of forming.

Approval by voters in November of the countywide sales tax hike would mean less sales tax revenue for Bartlett, Germantown and Collierville but more sales tax revenue for Lakeland and Arlington.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell vetoed the countywide ballot question saying the tax hike is premature because the countywide school board has not come up with a specific budget plan for the merged school district that begins in August 2013. But the commission over-rode his veto.

Since then County Commission chairman Mike Ritz, who proposed the countywide tax hike, has been talking with city leaders. The result is Monday's announcement that they now favor the countywide sales tax hike which would generate just over $60 million in revenue, half of that going to schools -- countywide and municipal.