MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Shelby County sales tax showdown is on. County Mayor Mark Luttrell has vetoed a County Commission plan to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase.
The tax would provide $30 million for education with the unified school system and the municipal schools splitting the money.
Luttrell says it's too early to even think of any type of tax increase. Commissioners argue, if they don’t get it now they may not get it at all.
Luttrell says, "The veto is something used sparingly." He rarely exercises that right. However, Thursday was an exception. "It was surprising and it concerns me. I don't think it was well thought out, well considered and I don't think that it was a wise decision that they made," he says.
Last week the County Commission voted seven to four to place a half cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. County Commissioner Mike Ritz sponsored the initiative, "I can't follow his rationale frankly," Ritz says, "The County Commission is responsible for funding the schools and we've got to find some money to do it with and we need this $30 million from this half cent sales tax."
The Unified Schools Transition Planning Commission is doing a thorough review of the school budget for cost-saving measures, and the budget won't be submitted until June. Luttrell says it would be irresponsible to approve a tax increase without a budget, "If we see there's a budget need, we'll have an opportunity next Spring to put this on a ballot and ask the citizens to consider it at that time. Let's let the process work, be deliberate in how we do this, be insightful in how we move through this."
Ritz says there is no other time. "No there's not," he says, "That's what frankly disgusts me about the veto and those who wanted it vetoed, and that is if we don't do it now and get the citizens to vote it in November when we are looking at the budget next Spring we won't have the availability of this $30 million because we'll have to adopt a budget not knowing if people will vote on it."
Ritz also says he's afraid if the County doesn't move forward with the sales tax, the City of Memphis could beat them to it, which would leave the vote up to just Millington and the unincorporated areas of the County, he doesn't think it would pass.
Ritz says the Commission already has a resolution to overturn the Mayor's veto. The Commission needs eight votes to do that. That vote will happen Monday.