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New law would let residents vote on annexation

tate 600If you've ever had to buy clothes for your kids, you know how fast they can grow.
You've probably had to buy shoes or pants that were just a little too big. "You'll grow into it," you told them.

Cities are kind of like that. They can grow outside their city limits, and it's become a hot topic in the General Assembly in Nashville. It affects everything from how much you pay in taxes and what kind of services you get from the city.

As our Shelby County cities grow, their mayors and councils have a pretty good idea about where they'll grow within Shelby County. They write up growth plans and maps that spell that out which "reserve" areas they plan to bring into the city limits.

With everything at stake, it gets a lot more complicated than buying your kid bigger pants.

Consider the pipes that bring your water and move out sewer waste, and the roads you take to the store. Some were paid for by the cities, and some by the county. At the lines between the city and county is where we have issues.

Even though the city limits separate the cities from the county, a lot of growth just outside the city can cause a problem. A lot of people living just outside the city limits still puts a strain on city resources right at the line, and so cities will look to those growth areas to annex for new money in the form of property taxes.

Some of those residents who would be annexed see it differently. They have been paying taxes at a certain level, don't want to pay more, and don't see a benefit to paying more to the city, especially when they already pay taxes to the county.

This has become an issue not just in Memphis, but across the entire state. We voted on legislation last year that put annexations on hold until May of this year.

Last Monday we voted for another piece of legislation that would let residents vote on whether they want to be annexed into a city.

The legislation passed in the state Senate, but it hasn't been voted on in the House. If it passes, you would get to vote whether your house becomes part of a city.

That could impact a couple of proposed annexations here in Shelby County.

Lakeland in northeast rural Shelby County has looked at bringing in roughly 3,000 residents into that city, and Memphis has looked at annexing at least 3,500 residents from Southwind-Windyke.

Some residents are working to stop the annexations, while those cities hope to deliver city services to that area and pay for it with new tax revenue.

With so much at stake when cities grow, for the both cities and the people who might be annexed, it looks like everyone will have a chance to vote.

(State Sen. Reginald Tate represents part of Shelby County in the General Assembly. He serves as vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee.)

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