(WMC-TV) - Shelby County taxpayers are getting a 9 percent property tax hike, effective immediately. It took eight public meetings to approve the $4.38 tax rate, up from $4.02.
The hike was approved, after a surprise swing vote.
Nearly a dozen citizens pleaded their case to Shelby County Commissioners Monday.
Some were for a tax hike.
"You can't support public education, if you're not willing to put your money where your voice is," said Memphis resident Yvonne Acey.
Others were against it.
"If we pass on a government to them they cannot afford, it will still be for the children," argued Bartlett resident Anne Grosvenor.
Then came a surprise announcement by Commissioner Justin Ford, who previously voted against the tax hike.
"I will support the tax increase," he said.
The tax increase passed because Ford was the swing vote.
Ford said he had a change of heart, after listening to the people in his district.
"God gave us one mouth, two ears. That means what? You should listen more, talk less," said Ford. "I'm one of those commissioners who's shown through example in three and a half years that listening to problems and then finally making an opinion works."
Mayor Mark Luttrell maintained he had to call for a tax hike because it would have hurt public safety if he hadn't.
"I don't like raising taxes. It's painful to me to raise taxes," said the mayor.
Taxpayers had this response:
"They raise taxes and they raise taxes and they raise taxes and we never get anything to show for it," said Collierville resident Yvonne Burton.
"What it means for students is it shows the county is willing to invest in them and that we're fully going to fund our school budget," said Jaclyn Suffel, Stand for Children.
The mayor says schools were never on the table.
For legal reasons, the cuts would've had to come from county services.
For perspective, the tax hike means if you live in a $150,000 home, you'll now pay $137 more annually. Just more than $1,500 total ($1,522.50).