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VOL. 127 | NO. 153 | Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Council To Consider Gas Tax Increase

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members vote Tuesday, Aug. 7, on the third and final reading of a proposed local gasoline tax that would go to Memphis voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Drivers feeling the pinch at the pump could see a slight increase in prices in Memphis if the City Council passes a 1-cent tax increase.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

The 1-cent a gallon tax on gasoline proposed by council member Edmund Ford Jr. would go on the November ballot if it is approved. The revenue from the tax, estimated at $3 million to $6 million a year, would go to fund mass transit including the Memphis Area Transit Authority if approved by city voters.

The council votes the same month that MATA cuts some bus routes including the Poplar Express, its first foray into the bus rapid transit concept of express routes with fewer stops.

MATA is cutting the route because of a lack of ridership since the new service began in December. But some MATA board members say the transit authority did a poor job of marketing the express route.

The council has also already approved another ballot question for the Nov. 6 elections on a half percent local option sales tax rate hike in Memphis.

Both items are referendums because they are changes to the city of Memphis charter.

Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include a resolution to end city funding for vehicle inspections effective July 1, 2013, the start of the next fiscal year.

The resolution by council member Jim Strickland would give Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration the time until then to negotiate with Shelby County government to take over the inspection duties or have the state take them over.

Word of the possible council action has reached Shelby County Commissioners on the other side of the Main Street Mall.

Commissioner Chris Thomas requested a legal opinion from the Shelby County Attorney’s office about the county’s obligations.

County Attorney Kelly Rayne and Assistant County Attorney Carter Gray wrote in the opinion that county government would have no obligation to take over the program if the city decided to cut its funding.

County residents outside the city of Memphis are not required to have their vehicles inspected to get their car tags renewed. Rayne wrote that county government has no jurisdiction to govern or require auto inspections within the city of Memphis because county ordinances only apply to the unincorporated area of Shelby County unless they are joint ordinances or special countywide ordinances.

The council also votes Tuesday on $2 million in city funding through the Center City Development Corp. for blight remediation work around the Chisca Hotel and as part of that $1 million specifically in the form of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes extension loan to the Downtown Parking Authority to buy and renovate the hotel’s parking garage.

The South Main landmark is in the early stages of a long talked about renovation and reopening as an apartment building.

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