Commissioner: Shelby County tax hike unlikely to pass - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commissioner: Shelby County tax hike unlikely to pass

(WMC-TV) - The Shelby County Commission is considering a sales tax increase and it all stems from the suburban resistance to the merge with Memphis City Schools.

Shelby County has a month to decide if the sales tax will increase.

The mayor already said he's against it, but he's not the only county leader with a say on the matter.

The Shelby County Commission must also agree.

Commissioner Mike Ritz put a resolution on the table Monday allowing commissioners to either support or turn down a sales tax increase.

"Sales tax - when you eat lunch, when you buy a car, clothes, anything," Ritz said.

The threat of the sales tax increase came after Arlington aldermen put a referendum on the May ballot so voters could decide if they want to raise the sales tax from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent.

"The suburbs are using an increase in the sales tax to help with the municipal school districts." said Ritz.

They want to use that money to pay for a separate school district so they won't have to merge with Memphis City Schools next year.

But when a municipality wants to raise taxes, the law says the county where the municipality is located has the right to override the action and impose a countywide sales tax increase.

"If they decide they want to do it," Ritz said, "the county can opt in and do it instead."

However, Ritz said raising the countywide sales tax is treading on thin ice.

"We'd be taxing all of Memphis to help the suburbs with their school systems and I don't think it would be wise to do that," he said.

But that's not the only motivation.

Five other suburban municipalities are expected to follow Arlington's lead and if the county raises taxes as a whole, each suburban municipality gets a smaller piece of the pie.

However, the committee said Wednesday afternoon that it does not support a countywide sales tax increase.

But it's not over yet.

More than half the commissioners were at the Association of Counties Conference Wednesday.

It's unclear if the outcome will be the same when they return for the final vote next Monday.

Ritz said he cannot imagine those other commissioners would support a countywide sales tax increase.

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