A new deal is being discussed which could lower the Memphis tax rate.
The question is – at what cost?
Councilman Jim Strickland said the starting point should not be a tax increase. He sent a counter-proposal to his peers before budget hearings continue Wednesday.
"I've proposed a property tax decrease, as opposed to the mayor's increase," said Strickland.
Strickland is proposing 10% property tax cut against Mayor AC Whartons's proposed 14.7 percent property tax increase.
He said Memphis' high property tax rate is one of the top reasons people leave.
He thinks instead of raising taxes, the city should pay off the school debt once and for all by dipping into reserves. Memphis has 10 percent of its operating expenses in reserves.
"Nashville, for example, only keeps 5 percent of their operating expenses in reserves. So if we use 5%, that gives us $30 million to $40 million that we can use for this one-time expense and still be good stewards to the dollar," Strickland explains.
He said step two is to make most cuts in non-core services.
"What are core city services? Police, fire, and garbage pickup. Anything outside of that, we need to look at strongly," said Strickland.
Strickland wants across-the-board cuts to the tune of $10.4 million in materials, supplies, and amenities.
Police and fire would cut the least at 2 percent. Administration would cut the most at 10 percent.
"I think we ought to start at the top because that affects the public the least. We can't cut the people who actually provide the services to the public before we start at the top," he explained.
Strickland also is suggesting some job cuts: Two executive positions, all administrative positions in the Parks Division, and to cut police crossing guards. He said Shelby County deputies should cover crossing guard duties.
Strickland said the administration, council, courts, human resources, and parks, should trim dues, food and catering, rewards, seminars, and travel.
The two programs he wants to cut are public relations and the Music Commission. He said the Memphis Music Foundation already promotes Memphis music and the city music commission just overlaps.
The city's response to Strickland's proposal is that they are currently studying it.