Wharton presents budget proposal for upcoming year

Wharton speaks to the Memphis City Council at Tuesday's meeting.
Wharton speaks to the Memphis City Council at Tuesday's meeting.

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Fighting crime, paying for Memphis City Schools, possible budget cuts and fee increases are all part of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's budget for the upcoming year.

Wharton pitched his budget, which includes no tax hikes and no layoffs, to the Memphis City Council at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"(We've budgeted) Planned spending of $625.7 million and a capital improvement program budget of $79.5 million," he told council members.

The majority of the 2011 budget would be used to fight crime.

"Sixty percent of our spending in the year ahead will be dedicated to public safety and continuing our war against crime," Wharton said.

Meanwhile, there are only a few ways to tackle the challenge of giving Memphis City Schools a sum of $50 million.

"My proposal is to restructure the city's bond debt to free up $41 million," Wharton said.

That would be coupled with cuts to the operating budget of $9 million. But if the council doesn't want the bond restructuring, he will consider raising certain fees and making an eight percent cut across the board.

Wharton said he would also consider increasing solid waste fees, and blight reduction and public libraries would get no extra funds.

"Vacancies we thought we would fill, we simply won't be able to fill them," he said. "Supplies we thought we could get, we won't be able to get.  Promotions we thought we'd be able to do, we won't be able to do."

Wharton said the efforts made in his budget are only a band aid, and the city's bank account needs surgery.  As part of that effort, Wharton said he was starting a strategic business committee to volunteer to streamline city expenses.

Wharton also mentioned consolidation, saying he was working on a plan that would consolidate Memphis and Shelby County tax billing and collections.

He also wants to develop the riverfront.

Wharton said the city cannot touch its monetary reserves, which are dangerously low.

The Memphis City Council must ultimately vote on Wharton's proposed budget. The Council's budget hearings begin Thursday.

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