Memphis, TN -- Here we go again, a year after a bid to raise the sales tax rate in Memphis was overshadowed by an effort by the county, Memphis City Council members voted Tuesday evening to try again.
City leaders say raising the sales tax to 9.75 percent will raise around $47 million dollars, with the money generated going towards funding a citywide universal pre-kindergarten program and lower property tax rates.
"If you do not support this referendum, then Memphis will never have Pre-K," said Jim Strickland, one of the sponsors of the bill.
Last year, the council voted to hold a referendum on raising the sales tax rate. Then, the Shelby County Commission voted to hold a countywide referendum, which over-rode the city's effort.
Voters rejected the referendum.
"What part of hell no don't they understand?" said Shelby County School Board member Kenneth Whalum, Jr. "They already put it on a referendum, they said no, but apparently Councilman Flinn and Strickland feel like they found the magic pill to make people swallow it."
Strickland estimated the pre-k program would cost around $30 million with the rest going to lower property taxes.
"Sometimes we get thrown in a circle with intent, but I think there needs to be a little bit more transparency about what this ordinance is going to do," said council member Joe Brown.
"It makes no sense for us to invest in 4-year-olds when they go back home and there is no job or opportunity," said council member Harold Collins.
Under state law, the county must wait a year from last November's referendum to try again.
Councilman Strickland says the city hopes to hold this election in October to beat the county to the punch.
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