Commission Fighting City Over Fairgrounds Tax Money

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(Memphis) Shelby County Commissioners are putting off a decision to stick it to the city over some of your tax money.

The county is fighting the city’s request to use tax money collected around the Mid-South Fairgrounds for tourism, taking money from education.

The city has big plans for the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

It wants to put an indoor sports arena, outside fields, a skate park, restaurants and even a hotel on this blank canvas. But it comes with a cost of more than $230 million.

That’s almost as much as it cost to build the FedEx Forum.

To pay for it the city wants to turn a three square mile area around the fairgrounds into a tourism tax zone where most of the money collected goes to the project.

“If the city council wants to give away a tax that’s their business, but they shouldn’t be giving away the taxes we’re counting on for schools,” said Commissioner Mike Ritz.

County commissioners like Ritz are threatening to ask the state to not approve the tax zone saying it robs students who should be getting that money.

“We’ve got to protect schools. The county commission has got to do that,” said Ritz.

The commission is deferring a decision to fight the plan while County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s office gets with Memphis Mayor AC Wharton’s office to try to come up with a compromise.

That compromise would protect a certain percentage of the tax money raised for schools.

“We will ask our attorney to get with their attorney and see if there is any type of assurance that can be given as it relates to sales tax,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

Commissioners are giving them a chance, but Tourism Committee Chairman Steve Baser warns the city better be at the commission’s next meeting with a plan or they’re asking the state to revoke the tax zone.