Mayor Wharton disagrees with property tax hike to fund schools - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor Wharton disagrees with property tax hike to fund schools

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor AC Wharton does not want to increase property taxes but he may not have another choice in order to fund schools.

"If we have to increase it, I can think of no better reason to increase taxes than to educate our children," said Wharton.

Mayor Wharton says his opinion doesn't count, since the city is no longer required to fund schools under the Maintenance of Effort Law.

Still, he has strong opinions on the new shift in the property tax burden.

"It should not be only the City of Memphis that's paying for a school system. It is a countywide function," Wharton said.

Even before Shelby County School Board Commissioner Tomeka Hart proposed a one-year delay to the school merger, Mayor Wharton made it clear the city has no plans to go back to the old school funding model.

"We spent years getting out from under the Maintenance of Effort. There's absolutely no appetite whatsoever to get back into that," said Wharton.

If the merger is delayed, city taxpayers would be double-taxed for an additional year.  If the merger continues, the tax increase will be dispersed among all Shelby County residents.

"We'll have to absorb it through the county tax increase, which, by the way,citizens of Memphis will pay also,"said Wharton.

Wharton says make no mistake, he doesn't wish a tax increase on anyone, but he does believe in equal distribution.

"When you spread the tax burden across an entire county, it's much more bearable than it was before - with the City of Memphis paying twice on city taxes and county taxes," Wharton said.

The Shelby County Commission will discuss the unified schools' $145 million budget gap February 23 at its annual budget retreat.

Action News 5 will keep you posted on what they decide.

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