Council members try to hammer out city budget

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Council members spent Tuesday wrangling over tax dollars as they prepared to vote on the city's budget.

Budget talks sent council members into verbal combat.

"I consider it highly irresponsible and downright lazy to just go in there and say, 'Well, we're just going to raise taxes.  There's nothing we can do,'" council member Shea Flinn said. "Do the damn work."

"You're going to hit them in the pocket," council member Janis Fullilove replied. "They don't have money already, Councilman Flinn."

Fullilove blasted Flinn's proposal to create an Education Tax Bill.  Flinn said the current budget proposal only nibbles at the city's financial problems.  The city is in a court battle with Memphis City Schools, and may owe them $57M.

Flinn wanted to start an escrow that would be refunded to taxpayers if the city wins that court battle.

"It's not something I'm proud of," he said. "It's not something that lets me sleep at night, but we got elected to make the tough decisions."

Flinn withdrew his proposal after the council refused to delay the budget vote for two weeks to flush out the plan.

"I'm frustrated that it's just another lack of planning," he said. "It seems to be we'll just let AC handle it."

The council will vote on the mayor's budget as is.  It would include a 3 percent salary cut for city employees who make between $80,000 and $84,999, and a five percent cut for employees who make $85,000 or more.

"We're not going to tax our way out of this," council member Bill Morrison said. "We're going to cut our way out of this in smart, reasonable decisions that do not impact the citizens wham, bam."

The salary cuts would total more than $875,000 and offset a tax hike.

If you'd like to see the budget cut details, click here.

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