MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Shelby County has made its next move in the ongoing battle over education and money. Commissioners voted Monday afternoon to hold a public referendum asking to raise the county sales tax rate by half a percent.
It will affect everyone in Shelby County, but not everyone gets to vote on the issue.
Commissioners say this is a strategic move on their part to make sure there is enough money to fund education for all students in Shelby County. Those in the suburbs call it a sneaky move.
At the Shelby County Commission the point was made loud and clear: raise the sales tax countywide and money will be guaranteed for education.
According to Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz, "This is an opportunity for the county commission to get $30 million for schools."
The move comes after voters in all suburban communities except Millington approved raising sales taxes earlier this month. Suburban voters were told the additional money would go to pay for municipal schools. But now if a countywide sales tax is approved, it trumps local taxes.
Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald says what's happening doesn't make sense. "I don't know what the county commission is going to do next, you know, there's just a group of them, they're just floating around out there looking for anything to try to make life harder for the municipalities and I don't understand that."
County commissioners disagree, saying it will make sure education money is available for everyone. Since the money will be collected county wide, some municipal school systems could benefit.
"Generally speaking the little [municipalities] will get more, like in Arlington, they'd get more this way," Ritz said, "Big ones would take a little bit of a haircut."
But some see this as a way to move in on local control. After all, suburban leaders asked the commission if they planned to do this months ago and were told no.
"Why are they coming back now and saying, 'yeah, we out to do this,' I question the motive because we did our due diligence and we asked them if they wanted to do this and they said no."
Because voters in five of the six suburban communities already voted to increase the sales tax during the last election, they will not vote on this issue. Only residents in Memphis, Millington and the unincorporated areas will decide.