MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Shelby County's mayor is looking into his crystal ball at the start of this new year, and what he sees won't make you happy. He's talking about a possible big tax increase, and when he says big, he means it.
Mayor Mark Luttrell said before both school systems merge, he wants to make sure he sees how every nickel and dime of your dollars are being spent before he agrees to any tax increase.
There was a time in this old and sometimes tired city when life was pretty sweet. When a school was just a school, not a political hot potato, and a house was a home, not a brick and mortar automated teller machine for governments. Those were the days, and those days are gone.
Mayor Luttrell is just one of the folks who have to come up with a plan to merge both city and county school systems. He said, "Our objective is to have a plan drawn up by September of 2012."
Here's the problem. The City of Memphis currently gives city schools more than $70 million a year. When the schools merge, there's a good chance Memphis won't have to pay. But, state law says you can't cut a school budget, so that $70 million will have to be made up.
That means county taxpayers would be the ones that have to pony up the dough, maybe up to a 40 cent tax increase, meaning an extra $200 on a $200,000 house.
Anna Gilchrist of North Memphis said in her neighborhood, people are on a fixed income. Every increase means something else might have to be cut.
"That's ridiculous. It really is," she said. "That's a lot of trouble for real because these people over here are paying out of their checks, like my mother, and them who own houses, you know what I'm saying."
Joel Rose of Midtown knows what she's saying. He currently pays more than $7,000 a year in taxes on his home and some rental property.
"It would really hurt," Rose told abc24.com. "You know it takes such a big chunk of our profit on our rental places, it would kill us."
That's why the mayor said he wants to take a magnifying glass to the school budgets. Luttrell stated, "I have to feel very comfortable in how our education system is financially supported, how they spend their money, and what their capital needs are."
And don't think you guys who rent property are getting away with anything. As Joel Rose said, if landlords have to pay higher taxes, you guys are going to have to pay higher rent.