VOL. 132 | NO. 221 | Tuesday, November 7, 2017
City Council Eyes Hotel-Motel Tax to Fund Pre-K
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members will discuss a still-forming proposal Tuesday, Nov. 7, to fund universal prekindergarten in Memphis public schools by hiking the hotel-motel, or bed tax rate.
The 2:15 p.m. executive session discussion is around a proposal by council member Kemp Conrad that would increase the hotel-motel tax from 3.5 percent to 5 percent, which is the state’s cap on the tourism tax. The estimated $3.5 million that would generate would go toward a $7.9 million loss of funding for pre-K in 2019 when a federal pre-K grant runs out.
The proposal is expected to draw opposition from local tourism industry leaders. No council vote is scheduled on the matter Tuesday.
Four years ago, city voters crushed a proposed half-cent sales tax hike for a pre-k expansion in a 2013 citywide referendum.
City Council members will review a tentative proposal to raise the local hotel-motel tax on visitors to make up for a loss of grant money to fund pre-kindergarten classes in Memphis schools. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
A city-appointed early childhood commission would have governed how the revenue would be distributed and any excess revenue was to be used to reduce the city property tax rate.
The citywide ballot question followed a rejection by voters in 2012 of a half-cent countywide sales tax hike for pre-K expansion.
Both ballot questions suffered from an indirect path of the revenue to Shelby County Schools despite well-funded campaigns pushing for the tax hikes.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who supported the 2013 city sales-tax hike as a city council member, said Friday his administration has been working with Conrad on the proposal.
“There are many more technical details to work out, which is why we haven’t said much about it until now,” Strickland said in his weekly update via social media.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage as well as updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day at City Hall.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr. takes another ballot question to council members at a 2:10 p.m. committee session that would do away with ranked-choice voting, which is scheduled to be used for the first time in the 2019 city elections.
Ford is seeking legal opinions on possible alternative ballot questions that could eliminate the runoff provision for single-member city council seats in which no candidates gets a simple majority of the votes cast.
The council also votes Tuesday on the second of three readings of its new ordinance on the removal of Confederate monuments from city parks.
The new ordinance was substituted at the Oct. 19 council session. It gives Strickland and his administration through Nov. 21 to deliver a plan to the council for the removal of the statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park. T
he proposal also outlines other options the council might consider after that ,including closing the park entirely and erecting a memorial to lynching victims in the plaza where Forrest’s statue stands currently.
In planning and development items, the council considers a pair of car lots.
One would allow car and truck sales at the existing Enterprise Rent-A-Car office at 2424 Appling Road by Pingree 2000 Real Estate Holdings LLC and EAN Holdings LLC.
The other is a used car lot at 3800 Riverdale by T. Andrew Mattiace and Yaser Saleh. The car lot would be on vacant land in the Hickory Trace Commons planned development.
The Land Use Control Board and the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Planning and Development are recommending rejection of the Riverdale car lot, saying it is too “intense” of a commercial use.
Two ordinances that are a regular part of amending the Unified Development Code are also before the council for third and final readings.
The council is also expected to set its Nov. 21 meeting to hold a public hearing and vote on the plan by Memphis Wrecking Co. to expand landfill operations in Frayser to 58.8 acres of land that is zoned for residential single family. Several previous proposals by Memphis Wrecking have been rejected and drawn opposition from homeowners. The LUCB and OPD are recommending rejection.
The council also votes on $120,000 in funding to buy land east of Rodney Baber Park in Frayser to become part of a larger park.