Council approves referendum to increase sales tax for pre-K fund - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council approves referendum to increase sales tax for pre-K funding

Supporters see the tax hike as a crucial investment in public education; citizens who do not live in Memphis see it as a money grab. Supporters see the tax hike as a crucial investment in public education; citizens who do not live in Memphis see it as a money grab.

(WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council approved a referendum to increase the city sales tax by a half percent for pre-K funding. The referendum will be put on a ballot for Memphis taxpayers to vote it up or down.

"If it was all about pre-K, why not put all $47 million into pre-K? I'll tell you why. Because it's not about pre-K," said Shelby County commissioner Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

Whalum is suspicious of the sales tax hike referendum.

"Superintendent Dorsey Hopson just told the school board in the last week or so that we have more openings in pre-K than we thought we did," he said.

The money would pay for 4,500 Memphis pre-K students, and $22 million of the money would lower the property tax rate.

"Currently, we spend 70 percent of our budget on public safety. If we can lower that, through this, we can spend that money on other poverty initiatives," said Memphis councilman Shea Flinn.

Flinn has been pushing the sales tax increase for more than a year. He says people have the right to question where the money will go.

"I understand that, and I accept that. That's why we put controls on place to have a citizens commission made up of experts and leaders in our community to hold the politicians' feet to the fire," said Flinn.

Supporters see the tax hike as a crucial investment in public education; citizens who do not live in Memphis see it as a money grab.

Whalum questions why the people who funded the campaign to support the sales tax hike referendum will not come forward.

"Councilman Flinn says that they prefer to remain anonymous. Why?" said Whalum.

The referendum will be up for a vote in an October special election.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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