Memphis leaders take oath of office, look forward - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis leaders take oath of office, look forward

(WMC-TV) - While taking the oath of office Sunday, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he already had his mind on what will happen during the middle of his four-year term, when the city is no longer obligated to help finance Memphis City Schools.

"It will suddenly leave about $70 million on the table," said Wharton.

The change will not happen until the 2013-2014 school year, but the mayor has already reached out to Memphis City Council Chairman Bill Morrison and other councilors about forming a task force to find some of the best uses for that money.

"So that when the council reaches that point and time, we might not know exactly where every dollar is going, but we can say here are the values we wish to pursue as we make use of these funds," said Wharton.

The mayor said he has some ideas about how he would like to see the money used.

"One of the first things would be to adjust downward taxes of Memphians once the full obligation on funding schools goes over to the county, because it's quite likely the county will have to adjust its tax rate up."

After a tax cut, there would still be money left to restore the 4.6 percent pay cut city employees took last year.

"Again, I'm speaking for one person now, to restore the salary cuts, that's the only fair thing to do," said Wharton.

Wharton said he would still like to see some of the $70 million used toward education, but on children ages 0 to 3.

"I think we could take one tenth of what we are giving MCS right now and have a greater impact by taking that one tenth and placing it on early childhood," he said.  "Good day care centers, getting every child into a head start program."

The mayor said however the money is used, it should be done with care, in an orderly manner, and in a way that is fiscally responsible.

Wharton said the task force is a collaborative effort with his office, the city council and the community.  The group would get started next month and make and make recommendations to the mayor and the council by September 15 of this year.

Meanwhile, Wharton was those sworn in Sunday at a ceremony at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

"It's about taking an oath, a promise, an affirmation, a declaration to ourselves, our fellow citizens, and to our God," said Wharton.

Also sworn in were 13 elected city council members, the city court clerk and three city court judges.

"My first action will be to review the Electrolux contract and make sure we have minorities and women's participation," said Morrison.  "We're ready to push this city forward."

Morrison will serve as the new Memphis City Council Chairman.

"As chairman, I think the focus has to be on job creation," he said.  "We have to continue to push that.  Second of all, we have to get through this budget.  It's going to be another tight year.  We fund the schools for one more year, so we're going to make sure we handle that responsibly."

There was also one new face.  Lee Harris will serve District 7, the seat vacated by Barbara Swearengen Ware after she was indicted on charges of official misconduct.

Harris said he hopes to bring out some positive changes.

"North Memphis is an important district," said Harris.  "There's a lot of excitement in Frayser, and those folks are hungry.  They're hungry for change.  They're hungry to move forward.  That's what I talked about on the campaign trail.  That's what I hope to offer on city council."

The oath of office was administered by retired Judge George Brown.

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