(Memphis) With a 7-5 vote, the Shelby County Commission has passed a half cent sales tax hike on its first reading.
In November, voters will decide whether they want that tax to go into effect.
Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz told us it will be hard to fund schools without the a half cent sales tax increase, “It is a real balancing challenge for the County Commission dollars wise. We are talking about a lot of money.”
Voters in Arlington, Lakeland, Germantown, Collierville and Bartlett just passed a half cent sales tax hike this month.
Millington voters rejected the measure by just three votes.
Bartlett’s Mayor Keith McDonald says no one knew the county had similar plans, ” I am surprised by it. If that was something they needed to do, why didn’t they do it? That would have saved us from having to go through the exercise.”
With a county levied tax, half of the 61 million dollars collected will go to schools.
The new consolidated school system would get about 75 percent of the funds, and the six municipalities would split the rest based on their student body size.
Voters in those municipalities who voted on their own sales tax at the beginning of the month, will not be allowed to vote on the tax.
“The smaller two systems, Lakeland and Arlington would come out ahead doing it our way,” says Ritz.
Larger cities like Bartlett and Germantown will end up with hundreds of thousands dollars less in yearly tax revenue for the schools than if they went it alone.
But Bartlett’s Mayor says it still won’t be a game changer.
“We still would have enough to do the schools,” says McDonald. “It wouldn’t sink the ship.”
We are told the Shelby County sales tax referendum supersedes the City of Memphis tax vote as well.
The county wanted to set the tax hike to ensure it had control over the funds.
Ritz says a city levied tax wouldn’t go to schools, since the city no longer has to fund schools.
But that sales tax hike, even if it passes, isn’t expected to be enough to fund education.
A property tax hike may be on the table next.