Voters confused days before Nov. 21st Pre-K sales tax vote - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Voters confused days before Nov. 21st Pre-K sales tax vote

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In three days Memphis voters will decide whether to support a half-cent sales tax increase to fund Pre-K education.

But if you ask the average person what are they voting for, the answer will surprise you.

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The clock is ticking when it comes to asking voters to approve the measure. A similar referendum in November 2012 failed in Shelby County. One reason it didn't pass is that county voters didn't know what they were voting for.

The special election is Thursday for the referendum but many Memphians didn't know the polls will be open.

"I have no idea (when election day is)."

"Um, now I do."

As far as understanding the Pre-K initiative, the need for a sales tax increase, and if approved, what the expected $30 million raised will actually fund.

"Some of it, I heard about the ballot. Some of it. I don't really exactly what they want to do," said a Shelby County voter.

It seems voters are not only confused, but don't necessarily believe the money will be set aside strictly for Pre-K.

"The city has made a lot of promises and has failed to keep all of the promises."

"I mean you can only trust that they'll do what they say."

It's an issue of trust, that seems to be a problem for the Memphis City Council. Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz said voters have a reason for being skeptical.

"A lack of a plan is part of the problem here," Commissioner Ritz said.

"I feel that every voter feels the same way that they haven't given a specific plan or a specific budget or any reasoning behind the one percent, even though it's for Pre-K," said a Shelby County voter.

A part of the argument for city council is the money raised is estimated to be $47 million if voters approve the referendum. Of the $47 million, $30 million will fund a city-run Pre-K program for thousands of Memphis kids. Whatever is left will lower the city's property tax rate.

Commissioner Ritz said even if voters approve the initiative, what the city council commits to today may have no bearing in the future.

"We can't commit the next county commission to doing so. They can't commit the next city council to doing something," Commissioner Ritz said. So while they may put $30 million in next year, it may be $29 (million), $25 (million) or $20 (million) the year after, and it may take them a while to get started. It's hard to start up from scratch."

Which means proponents still have work to do before proving the opponents wrong.

Polls will be open Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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