Wharton says city budget has a long way to go

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Mayor A C Wharton says funding Memphis City Schools could put 500 city jobs on the line, and he's not ruling out a tax hike.

During school funding talks Tuesday, we learned the city could see massive job cuts, property owners could face a tax hike, and city services could take a big hit.

Wharton says he has to find a way to come up with $25 million dollars to fund Memphis City Schools.  But can he do that and keep the property tax rate steady?

"I would certainly hope so," Wharton said Wednesday. "There are number of things I still have to look at."

The city of Memphis is scrambling for money after a judge ruled it must serve as a funding source for Memphis City Schools.

"We were duty bound to let the council know that for the first time, the city of Memphis will be in a deficit status," Wharton said.

On top of tax hike talks, Wharton believes the situation may force the loss of 500 city jobs.

"Do we want to lay off even one employee?  Absolutely not," he said.

Wharton says everything has downstream consequences, and three main factors led to the dilemma.

"The school funding situation, then a raise on top of that, and a tax cut," he said.

For Wharton, the city's monetary reserves are off limits, and personnel make up 70 percent of the city's budget.

"That is an absolute worst case scenario," he said. "I'm not going downtown today and start working on pink slips."

While Wharton says streamlining won't meet this $25 million dollar need, he's looking to trim in other places.

"Restructuring some of the debt.  I have people working on that now.  Shifting some of our building projects.  We have a long way to go," he said.

Wharton pointed out he only raised taxes once in seven years as Shelby County Mayor.

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