Police, fire unions propose way to fund pre-K

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Days after Memphis leaders announced a $6 million increase to pre-K funding, local fire and police unions announced a plan to add to that dollar amount.

Memphis fire and police unions want voters to approve a half percent sales tax hike.

The money raised from that tax increase would go to restoring benefits for firefighters and officers. Any money leftover from the tax increase would go into the pre-K fund.

Mayor Jim Strickland unveiled his pre-K proposal Saturday. He said he would pay for it without having Memphians pay any more money.

Pre-K was a large part of the conversation at a recent joint meeting of the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission.

"One of the things we've been hoping is that Memphis would join some of the other municipalities in also funding education," Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer said.

Shafer said pre-K is critical, but assured everyone that the county is dedicated to also improving Shelby County Schools.

"I think the mayor's announcement was outstanding. Pre-K has been an issue within the city of Memphis," Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said.

Union members are working to gather enough signatures to put a referendum increasing the sales tax to 9.75 percent on the ballot in November.

If passed, the tax increase is expected to yield at least $50 million. Union members said they just need 36 million to restore their lost benefits, so the rest of the money could go to pre-K.

City of Memphis said it needs $16 million to pay for universal pre-K.

Last month, Memphis Police Association and Memphis Fire Fighters Association announced they were working together to help fund public safety.

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