Memphis voters move to raise sales tax to improve public safety

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Soon enough, it will cost a little more in taxes to buy something in the city of Memphis — a half-cent more, to be exact.

A referendum passed by Memphis voters Thursday raised the city's sales tax from the current 9.25% to 9.75%.

Some say the small amount will ultimately make a big difference.

"It was a sigh of relief," Michael Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, said. "A lot of officers were very jubilant. It increased morale."

Some of the money generated will be used to restore benefits and pensions for both the Memphis Police and Fire Departments.

Williams said it's been years since healthcare and retirement benefits were cut, but now the voters have spoken. He said the taxes will bring in enough to get things back up and going again.

"I think the initial estimate was $35-34 million to restore for everybody," Williams said.

There wasn't a large number of votes putting it over the top. According to the Shelby County Election Commission, nearly 5,000 votes pushed the measure through.

It passed in spite of some city and county leaders not favoring the increase.

"Once it was actually mandated by the citizens, which overrules the council, then they have to actually implement that," Williams said.

WREG reached out to Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., who in the past was not in favor of the tax hike. He was unavailable to go on camera but through a representative said the exact date on when the tax will go into effect will be decided at another time.

Williams is hopeful it will be sooner, rather than later.

"It's incumbent upon our elected officials to do the will of the citizens," Williams said.

Williams added that the money generated from the tax hike will also be used to fix roads and to fund pre-kindergarten programs.

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