MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It's been sounding like a broken record and Mayor Wharton has been singing the only tune, until now. More discussions on the Memphis city budget are getting underway at city hall.
Mayor Wharton is pushing for a plan that would raise your property taxes to pay for city schools. But the chairman of the City Council Budget Committee says the Wharton plan doesn't do enough cutting and slicing. In fact, he says he has a plan that will end up cutting your property taxes.
Councilman Jim Strickland says don't cut blue collar workers. Don't cut cops or firefighters or close parks, and whatever you do, don't shut down seven branch libraries. He says cut the big money employees, take money out of the city's way too fat reserve fund, and then cut those taxes.
If Memphis were a restaurant, you'd call it overpriced, and you'd complain about the portions. We pay the highest property taxes in Tennessee and services have been cut over the years.
Now, Mayor A C Wharton is talking about raising property taxes. If you own a $200,000 home, your taxes would go up by $235 under the Wharton plan. And, seven libraries would have to close.
The idea of paying more for less never goes over well. Especially when talking about paying more in property taxes and getting fewer services in return. Libraries are considered pretty important.
"We don't have very many library branches as is," noted Memphis resident Christie Thomas. "But to close some, where would the children go if they need to check out books, or finding information on school projects. So I don't think that would be a very good idea."
City Council Budget Committee Chairman Jim Strickland doesn't like the idea either. There are certain things a city must do for its people, he says.
"Core municipal services are police, fire, sanitation, parks, libraries."
Strickland says cut the white collar city employees and give the schools money out of the city's reserve or rainy day fund. He says his plan wouldn't raise taxes, but lower them.
For same $200,000 house, under the Strickland plan, taxes would drop by $240 a year.
"Before it was, how much of a tax increase do we do," Strickland said, "Now, I want the discussion to be how much of a tax decrease can we do."
This sounds like a no brainer, but nothing is that simple in Memphis politics.
The Strickland plan would cut the Music Commission, the Office of Multi Cultural Affairs, and a few other things. They may be not so important to you and me, but Councilman Harold Collins says there are people who need the Multi Cultural Affairs Office.
Collins said, "I would venture to say, ask our citizens of Memphis who are not from this country, not from our city, but call our city home and contribute to our community through their own taxes and their own services as well."
Still, Collins says Strickland's plan can help.
"That gives all of us an opportunity to bounce things off the wall. Whether they begin to stick or not is another issue."
Here's something the council members have often done. They wait until the last budget meeting, and then they start tossing in all their pet projects. That's when things get out of control, with your money.