(WMC-TV) – A tax fight in Shelby County is dividing the mayors.
Mayor A C Wharton changed his mind and now supports a tax hike. But Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is fighting it.
Weeks of negotiations culminated in a Monday morning news conference signaling a compromise on the proposed countywide sales tax hike.
But, after the city mayor made the announcement in county commission chambers, the county mayor had some words.
Weeks after Memphis Mayor A C Wharton blasted the Shelby County Commission for hijacking his sales tax hike proposal, he announced a change of heart.
Flanked by councilmen, county and school board commissioners, the mayor said a philanthropic commitment sealed the deal.
"It was the commitment to universal Pre-K in Memphis and Shelby County that sold me," said Mayor A C Wharton.
Councilman Shea Flinn warned a "no" vote on the November 6 referendum means property tax increases.
He also explained what a "yes" vote means for Memphis taxpayers.
"We will be able to provide a property tax discount," said Flinn.
No one would confirm the private money source, but Action News 5 was told an announcement is coming.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell watched from the wings. He calls the idea bad budget discipline.
"To expand Pre-K, but not provide security for the schools is unpardonable," said Mayor Mark Luttrell.
The school merger means the city is off the hook for $57 million each year.
The county pays for that and $6 million for deputies to replace Memphis police in schools.
"Before we start talking about expanding programs, we need to take care of the holes in the current program," said Mayor Luttrell.
Wharton says cuts or no cuts, philanthropy is the only way universal Pre-K could get funding.
"You can't say there's waste in something you're not spending money on anyway," said Wharton.
After the news conference, Commissioner Terry Roland called very upset that none of the suburban county commissioners were invited.