Mayor looks to property tax hike

The Mayor has clearly changed his approach with local leaders. He's apparently no longer telling Council members consolidation is the only way to save money. But he's giving them choices they might find equally hard to swallow like a $.54 property tax hike.

In a one-on-one interview Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton told Action News 5 he hasn't given up his fight for consolidation.

But - for the first time - he seems to be pulling back. "As you well know there is strong resistance to consolidation on the part of the suburban mayors, elected officials and I think it is fair to say with some of the leadership in the County government and i'm not even sure where the city council is," he said. "I'm not sure even where some individuals in the african american community."

A newspaper column written by Reverend LaSimba Gray - a traditionally strong Herenton supporter - says consolidation is a nightmare scenario for City residents.

So Herenton is focusing on tough calls in the near term, giving City Councilmembers the hot potato: Wanna fix the City budget? Vote for a $.54 property tax hike.

"It brings a lump in anyone's throat," said Budget Committee Chairman Tajuan Stout Mitchell. She says Councilmembers may support some compromise.

"I'm not sure where anyone is on the $.54 ... I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure where I am yet. I don't think i'm there," she says.

"Quite frankly I have not seen enough stamina in the vast majority of them to stand the heat. At some point in time, they're gonna look for some solutions," says Herenton.

In the meantime, the Mayor says he'll let them come to it on their own, telling me budgets are flailing in Memphis and Shelby County and - at some point - they will have no choice.

"So yeah, i'm gonna relax and they're gonna figure out they can't keep running away from this tough decision," he said.

Some Councilmembers say one solution may be cutting some funding to schools and raising property taxes a bit. We'll watch them work their way through it at a meeting at City Hall next Tuesday.