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VOL. 129 | NO. 153 | Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sales Tax Hike Clears First Hurdle

By Bill Dries

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After lingering for several weeks as the politically charged environment at City Hall has subsided some, the idea of a city sales tax hike to restore funding for health insurance cuts to city employees and retirees is moving. But it may not get very far.

The Memphis City Council approved Tuesday, Aug. 5, the first of three readings of an ordinance that would put a half-cent sales tax hike on the November ballot for city voters.

FULLILOVE

The referendum, proposed by council member Janis Fullilove, would ask voters to raise the local option sales tax rate by half a cent, with 80 percent of the revenue from the increase going to police and fire services to reverse health insurance cuts the council approved in June. The remaining 20 percent of the revenue would go to the city’s bond debt service fund.

Fullilove began moving on the referendum ordinance although it is unclear whether there is enough time to put the question on the November ballot.

She said she had been told the council must approve the ordinance on third and final reading by Labor Day in order to meet deadlines in election law for such matters. Approval on first reading Tuesday would put third reading past the Labor Day holiday.

The idea of a sales tax hike creating an estimated $47 million in additional revenue was suggested by Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams last month at the height of council day protests at City Hall.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has said he is not for such a sales tax hike. In a year’s time, city voters voted down two sales tax hike ballot questions – one a countywide sales tax increase in which city voters were the bulk of the electorate on the ballot question.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 85 205 21,165
MORTGAGES 76 206 24,338
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 27 34 3,135
BUILDING PERMITS 183 321 43,755
BANKRUPTCIES 48 92 13,560
BUSINESS LICENSES 31 44 6,756
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 25 32 7,931
MARRIAGE LICENSES 22 41 4,775