Sales tax hike comes up in city council meeting - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Sales tax hike comes up in city council meeting

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(WMC-TV) - Could Memphians soon see a sales tax hike? The controversial proposal to hike the Memphis sales tax re-surfaced in Tuesday's city council meeting.

Supporters of the half-cent sales tax hike say the money would pay for both Pre-K and a property tax cut.

But opponents fired back saying the promises for the tax appear to be empty.

After a countywide sales tax hike failed, Memphis Councilman Shea Flinn threw out the original idea: a city sales tax hike.

Flinn says there are 4,400 4-year-olds in the city right now and there is no space for them in Pre-K. He also says the plan would generate $27 million for Pre-K and result in a $20 million property tax cut.

"Our property tax rate is completely out of balance with the rest of the state," said Flinn.

Councilwoman Janis Fullilove said she was not convinced the money would really end up in Pre-K.

"If the countywide referendum failed, what makes you think the people of Memphis are going to pass this?" asked Fullilove.

"Either we trust ourselves to keep our promises or we don't," said Flinn.

Fullilove also asked Flinn how they would pay for a campaign to promote the ballot measure.

"Where is the money coming from, from this massive campaign?" she asked.

Flinn responded, "I have no idea."

In which Fullilove replied, "You have no idea?"

And Flinn said, "No."

Then, the discussion caused an awkward exchange between sales tax hike opponent Councilman Kemp Conrad and supporter Councilman Jim Strickland.

"I think there are responsible ways to lower taxes," said Kemp Conrad.

To which Strickland responded, "When you have a proposal to lower taxes 20 cents we'll…"

The exchange continued like this:

Conrad: I'll do it again this year.
Strickland: So far, we haven't heard a proposal from you to cut taxes.
Conrad; There was, in...
Strickland: There's never been one.
Conrad: I"ll show it to you.
Strickland: You've never proposed a tax decrease because we never voted for one.

"I'd rather keep a tax rate that makes sense and is rational, then propose a decrease. I'll be proposing more reductions and rationalizing city government this year," continued Conrad.

No action was taken at the meeting Tuesday. In two weeks, the council will hear from Pre-K experts.

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