City/County Officials to Announce Joint Endorsement of Sales Tax Referendum

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from top left, clockwise: Wharton, Flinn, Robinson, Ritz
  • from top left, clockwise: Wharton, Flinn, Robinson, Ritz
[UPDATE: See report on Monday press conference.]

As the Flyer reported two weeks ago, conversations between Shelby County and Memphis city officials were being conducted concerning the prospect of a joint endorsement of the county sales-tax referendum on the November 6 ballot.

Those talks have now borne fruit. As a Sunday news release from the Carter Malone Group states:

"Elected officials in support of the upcoming half-cent sales tax referendum will hold a news conference on Monday, October 1, 2012 at 11 a.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building. Participants will include Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz, City Councilman Shea Flinn and Shelby County Unified School Board Member Patrice Robinson.

"On August 13, the Shelby County Commission approved a half-cent sales tax that voters in Memphis, Millington and unincorporated Shelby County would need to approve by way of a referendum on the November 6th ballot. This revenue will help fund education for all students in Shelby County when city and county schools merge in 2013…."

When Ritz, who has since become Commission chairman, first proposed the county's version of a sales tax, Wharton and Flinn were among several city officials who objected, on grounds that the new ballot initiative would supercede a city sales tax referendum that had already been scheduled for the November 6 ballot. Receipts from the city's version of the tax could have been allocated at the city's discretion, while half of all funds from the county sales tax, if approved, must be distributed to the public schools countywide.

Ritz and other county officials undertook to convince city representatives that their second-best option was to see the county sales tax passed, and, after the Commission overrode a veto of its referendum initiative by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, the city/county efforts to reach an understanding began.

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