(Memphis) A longtime supporter of the pre-k tax now says “vote no.”
Former school board member Martavious Jones said his change of heart has to do with who’s going to be in charge of the money.
“It’s a difference between initiated by the county versus the city,” he said “They still owe the schools $55 million from 2008 and that’s over five years ago. So we are to trust the same council to fulfill a promise of future funding of pre-k? I’m just not buying it.”
He said it also comes down to a state law.
There is no law that regulates how the city can use the money.
If the county passed the tax increase, half of the money collected would have to go to education.
Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn said the county tried that last year, but there was no guarantee from the school board that the money would go to pre-k.
That referendum failed.
He said the language on this ballot gives that guarantee.
In a trust account, they have to spend it on pre-k first. Only then can the excess money be turned over to reduce property taxes.
“If there is any excess money,” Flinn said. “If it is not spent this way, a citizen can sue and will.”
“What citizen is going to sue seek out an attorney and have the expense of fighting the city?” Jones asked.
“Speaking as a citizen of Memphis, I will sue and win,” Flinn said.
Flinn says it will cost about $30 million to fund pre-k for about 5,000 kids.
Jones says without a number attached to the ballot, he worries about the future.
“They can set that at any number the council deems appropriate,” Jones said.
Jones said he wants the county to put the issue of pre-k taxes back on the ballot.
Flinn says it already failed last year, so this is the best shot at giving 4-year-old a chance at pre-k.