Half-cent sales tax hike proposal returns - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Half-cent sales tax hike proposal returns

(WMC-TV) - The November election referendum to increase Shelby County sales taxes failed.

Now, Memphis leaders are pushing for a sales tax hike of their own.

And for some, it's a hard sell.

A half-cent sales tax hike proposal is back on the table to lower Memphis property taxes and close the pre-K gap for 4,500 students now doing without.

"This is win, win, win all around," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

The debate drew Wharton from his seventh floor office and sent a team of Urban Child Institute experts into an hour-long pitch to sell the idea of pre-K for all to the City Council.

"I certainly support, Mr. Mayor, doing the best for our children, but where are these statistics coming from?" said Memphis Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

As a former defense attorney, the mayor said he knows first-hand.

"If anybody needs an expert on what are the consequences of not having these children ready to learn when they get to kindergarten or Head Start or to the first grade, I can tell you," said Wharton.

The Urban Child Institute said pre-K students are up to 176 percent more proficient than non-pre-k children.

Council members questioned why the sales tax hike would work now, when the countywide sales tax hike failed in November.

"There were mixed messages. We blew it and got what we deserved," said Wharton.

Other council members said the school system can't keep up with kindergartners, so how could pre-K work?

"A kindergartner can't get him or herself to school. That has to be a parent issue. We need to figure out how to work that first," said Memphis Councilman Harold Collins.

Supporters said the sales tax hike would reduce property taxes by $20 million and put $27 million into pre-K.

They said the money would be placed into a pre-K fund so no one dips into the money for other uses.

If the council approves this, it could end up being put on the ballot in a special election.

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