School Funding

Group calls on Memphis to maintain tax rates and fund ‘moral budgets’


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A coalition is calling on the City of Memphis and Shelby County governments to maintain their current property tax rates – rather than lowered rates due to property revaluations – and to use the additional revenues to fund “a moral budget ”, including education, public transport and health.

“We need to do something different,” said Cardell Orrin, director of Stand for Children. “We’ve had the same thing whether you’ve made it an economic development policy or a government policy for at least 20 to 30 years. We have had austerity without real investment and it is not working. Communities are still impoverished and are not invested and do not develop. We need to take advantage of all the wealth created by increasing property values ​​in particular areas of the city and invest in people who we believe can have great benefits in the future.

Groups include Stand for Children Tennessee, Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope, Memphis Tenants Union, Memphis Music Initiative, My Sistah’s House, BLDG Memphis, Homeless Organizing for Power & Equality, Memphis Restaurant Workers United, Memphis For All, Decarcerate Memphis, Collective Action Plan and Strategies for the Whole Child.

The coalition is asking the county to maintain its current property tax rate of $ 4.05, above the recertification rate of $ 3.45. $ 4.05 would generate over $ 100 million in additional revenue over the $ 3.45 tariff.

They are asking the city to maintain the current property tax rate of $ 3.19. The current proposed rate for the city is $ 2.71, according to Worth Morgan, city councilor and budget chairman.

“This budget is vital because of the state of our city right now,” said Samantha Bradshaw, co-chair of the MICAH Economic Equity Task Force. “We need to make sure we set a budget that will benefit all citizens and not just a small percentage, roughly 35% of the middle to upper income residents of Shelby County. We are one of the poorest areas in the state of Tennessee and it is important that we look out for the people of Memphis and Shelby County. “

One of the group’s priorities is for the money to go to the “Youth Education Success” fund: $ 8 million in local funding and $ 2 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan and $ 20 million from the county. .

“The YES fund would target critical milestones in childhood development, from early childhood literacy efforts to successful freshman and post-secondary education,” a coalition paper reads. “In addition, the YES Fund would increase student mental health resources and reduce chronic absenteeism. Investments in early literacy include a literacy coach in every primary school as well as larger investments in response response programs. High school success initiatives, such as first year academics and college and career coaches, would be implemented. “

The group is also offering investments in the Memphis Area Transit Authority: $ 15 million in local funding and $ 5 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan and $ 10 million from the county.

“Over the next three years, funding for the city and / or county of MATA is to increase from the city’s $ 30 million pre-COVID to $ 65 million in total local (city and / or county) funding, as well as federal funds planned to fully implement Transit Vision 3.0. , ”Reads a document from the group. “This will allow MATA to become a more equitable and efficient public transport system serving many more citizens.”

Another request is for a ‘youth workforce fund’, which would encourage employers to create full-time pathways to quality jobs with a living wage and support organizations creating comprehensive services for youth. the employees. The request for this fund is $ 3 million from US city bailout funds and $ 2.5 million from local funding and $ 1 million from US county bailout funds.

Other aspects of the “moral budget” include rent relief, affordable housing, youth and adult mental health, broadband expansion, and integrated homeless services.

The various requests are largely initiatives that coalition members had previously worked on and had expertise on, Orrin said. Some, like the idea of ​​a county civic engagement coordinator, are more recent ideas.

Orrin said that as the city and county contemplate the ramifications of property revaluations, it is important to determine who benefits from the reduction in the tax rate to ensure that local governments do not receive a tax increase. their income.

“We haven’t done a good job of figuring out who actually pays the most taxes and who doesn’t,” Orrin said. for who? What does it look like split between city and county? Who benefits and what is the balance? “

Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at [email protected], 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.

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