MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wants to raise property taxes by 47 cents in his new budget. It would increase the annual property taxes on a $200,000 home by $235. His new plan calls not only for more taxes, but also for more layoffs. The key is whether city council members will buy it.
City hall sits smack in the middle of downtown Memphis, but sometimes it seems as though it's as far away from the realities of Memphis life as possible.
"I think part of the issue is what resonates inside the walls of 125 North Main are not the same issues that resonate across the entire city. And the issues that resonate in one neighborhood won't do that in another. So we can't be all things to all people. We no longer can afford that." Said the city's CAO, George Little.
The time has come for folks to realize that their tax money isn't enough to pay for all the things the city does. If you want things to continue as they are, it means pay more.
Most of the decision makers at city hall say the current budget process is broken. It hasn't worked well in years, it's not working now, and the future will be even worse.
"I've always been a proponent of saying we can't be all things to all people. What we can do is provide our citizens with a level of service they deserve." Harold Collins
There are council members who say more cuts are needed and that the Wharton administration hasn't come though on promises of running a less expensive government.
"There will have to be continuing right sizing of government. There's a question of pace, how fast do you want to do it." Shea Flinn
This is confusing for a lot of folks, but the most important issue is whether there will be a property tax increase or not. Right now chances are an increase is likely.
But it will change; it always does. We will find out over the next three weeks.
Council members know that they are the ones who make the final decisions on budget.
A big tax increase doesn't look good to voters in a city where the property owners pay more in taxes than any where else in the state.
Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton predicted that the Memphis budget would be the biggest problem A C Wharton would have as mayor.
He's right. So much so, in fact that members of his administration are talking about taking a look at the whole process, and maybe reforming it to something similar to what you go through in the supermarket. Do you go with the budget brand or the name brand? How much quality can you afford?
There's not any talk right now about laying off police officers or firefighters. But if council members don't want to raise taxes, don't be surprised to see the mayor propose laying off those folks. He said it would be his last resort.