Chelsea proposes 1-cent sales tax increase for schools

CHELSEA – Chelsea officials are seeking the public’s input about a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase in the city for education funding.

Mayor Tony Picklesimer announced the proposal at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 2, and said residents can voice their opinions on the measure at a public hearing during the Council’s July 16 meeting.

“Lack of funding for ancillary projects is a real problem here in Chelsea,” Picklesimer said. “I feel like this is something that’s going to be very well received.”

The Council could vote on the sales tax increase at its meeting scheduled for Aug. 6.

The 1-cent sales tax increase would generate an estimated $1.5 million per year that would be controlled by the Council and used solely for needs at the city’s five elementary, middle and high schools.

“Not one penny of this 1-cent sales tax would go into the general fund,” Picklesimer said.

Picklesimer noted that the sales tax paid in Chelsea is 9 percent compared to 10 percent in most nearby municipalities.

Chelsea Park Elementary School, Forest Oaks Elementary School, Mt Laurel Elementary School, Chelsea Middle School and Chelsea High School are all located within Chelsea city limits but owned and operated by Shelby County Schools.

The city supports the schools financially, including a gift of $125,000 last school year that allowed for the construction of a multipurpose building at the high school, among other projects, Picklesimer said.

Chelsea has given more than $2 million to local schools during Picklesimer’s time on the council and in the mayor’s office, he said.

“I think we’ve demonstrated as a city over the years that our schools are very important to us,” Picklesimer said.

A City Council committee was formed to meet with school leaders about local needs, and the committee delivered a report on June 18.

“We have found that each school has several different needs, maintenance issues large and small, and multiple items that are not funded by the Shelby County Board of Education, which is why each school is constantly fundraising,” the report stated.

Though a property tax—there is none collected by the city from its residents—could be seen as an alternative to a sales tax increase, Picklesimer said he made a campaign promise not to enact a property tax and believes it would be an unfair method to fund schools because about 40 percent of students live outside city limits and therefore their households would not be contributing the taxes.

The mayor encouraged residents to attend the public hearing on July 16 and give feedback about the proposal.

“We want to hear from you,” he said. “We want to hear from our citizens.”