(Memphis) Child advocates told Memphis City Council members a Pre-K education will not only help children become better learners, it also helps them stay out of jail when they graduate.
“Maybe I should have attended Pre-K because I've been to jail a bunch of times,” said City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.
Mayor A C Wharton knows raising sales taxes will be a tough sell, but he says the future of Memphis could depend on it.
“The salvation of this community, and this is not hyperbole, is doing a better job of getting our community ready to learn once they get to school,” said Wharton.
The sales tax would go up to 9.75%,
That’s half a percent from what it is now.
It's estimated the tax hike would raise more than 40 million dollars with half of that money going to Pre-K education for all Memphis Children.
The other half would possibly lower the property tax rate which is the highest in the state.
The city and the county have recently asked voters for tax increases, but they failed.
Sponsors say they have to do a better job advertising this time around.
“There were mixed messages. We blew it quite frankly, and we got what we deserved on it,” said Wharton.
Mayor Wharton says the city must have a unified message in support.
Councilman Harold Collins says Memphis has a parenting problem, and a tax increase won’t fix it because many parents don't take their children to school as it is.
“We got to figure out how to work that first before we go down the road of investing 27 million annually in a program when they say we're going to get this kind of return,” said Collins.
Wharton blames sales tax increase failures on confusion about where the money will go.
He says this time all money raised would go into a trust run by private citizens, and anyone can go online and keep track of it.
The full council must approve this before it can go on the ballot.