Property tax takes center stage in budget debate - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Property tax takes center stage in budget debate

As the City of Memphis and the Memphis City Council bang heads over this year's budget, the property taxes takes center stage - with some council members dead set on averting the mayor's proposed tax hike.

Memphis government leaders face five more weeks of marathon budget meetings.

"This is a complicated year-over-year calculation," says City of Memphis finance director Brian Collins.

Underlying every decision: the threat of a property tax hike.

Some council members, like Jim Strickland, want cuts.

"We need to reduce expenses so we don't have a tax increase," Strickland said.

Others -- like Myron Lowery -- have a dual approach.

"To see what might be eliminated, to see if we have new revenue sources coming in so we can avoid a tax increase."

Though the proposed budget is less than last year, there's a nearly 26 million dollar budget gap.

Coming up with gap fillers is causing spirited debate in budget hearings.

Collins claims most people won't see the extra 28-cents added to the $3.11 property tax rate.

He says the owner of a 100-thousand dollar house would pay the same amount in taxes due to lower property values.

"That person opens up their envelope from the Assessor's Office to find the property value has declined to $91,000."

Councilman Shea Flinn says not everyone's values dropped.

"This will absolutely be a tax increase for them."

Budget Committee Chairman Jim Strickland is calling for line-by-line cuts.

Councilman Myron Lowery's view is a bit different.

"I'd like to see we that get additional revenues in so we get to return the full 4.6% cut to all city employees."

The administration sees three big issues on the horizon: ballooning interest on current debt, as well as rising pension and other post-employment benefits costs.

The next budget hearing will be held next Saturday.

The big item: The administration will present its police budget amid a battle with the police union over the current 4.6% wage cut.

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