MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Mayor Jim Strickland met with state lawmakers in Nashville on Wednesday to try and convince them to drop a bill he said will be bad for Memphis.
Strickland's trying to stop a bill that would allow districts to de-annex themselves from nearby cities.
"I hope it's not too late," Strickland said. "We're working very hard [to stop this bill]."
The bill initially would have given two Memphis neighborhoods the right to de-annex from Memphis. The number of neighborhoods has since ballooned to 10.
Strickland said the city could have absorbed the loss of two areas but not 10. The original two areas (Southwind and Cordova) would've cost the city about $5 million, but Strickland said all ten will cost between $27-80 million dollars.
Senator Reginald Tate, who co-sponsored the bill in the Tennessee Senate, said he would no longer vote for the bill because of the additional eight areas.
"I was inclusive of Southwind only," Senator Tate said. "I had no intentions of these other areas or these other neighborhoods to be de-annexed. It was not my intention ever."
Strickland said he'd be willing to discuss a compromise that allowed Southwind and Cordova to leave, as long as the rest of the areas stay.
"We don't want them out, but if that settles the issue, we'd be accepting of that," Strickland said.
While talking with lawmakers, Strickland said that de-annexation would force Memphis and Shelby County to raise property taxes.
"Not only is the City of Memphis going to have a property tax increase, Shelby County is going to have a property tax increase," Strickland said. "We already have the highest tax rate in the state. We don't need to jack it up any more."
Strickland said Germantown, Collierville, and Bartlett residents would end up paying for the de-annexation because the county would have to start providing services to all those areas.
"The sheriff has already put a number on it," Strickland continued. It's going to cost $12 million to hire sheriff's officers to patrol these areas that have 111,000 people, $4 million for new cars, plus money for uniforms and weapons and equipment. And that's just the sheriff's office."
County Mayor Mark Luttrell pushed back on that assertion. He said it's premature to assume county taxes would increase because of de-annexation.
"I don't know. I think there's certainly going to be a cost impact," Luttrell said. "We've just got to find out to what extent there will be a cost impact. If it is a tax increase that's required, then that will be part of the education process."
Strickland said the way to avoid raising taxes if de-annexation happens is for the de-annexed areas to continue paying city debt.
"If they're going to pay for the debt, they need to pay for all the debt that was incurred, which includes the pension," Strickland said.
Members of the Memphis Firefighters Association were also in Nashville telling senators the de-annexation would be devastating for the county fire department, which is already stretched thin on limited resources.
"Absolutely, there could be longer response times," Memphis Firefighters Association member Matthew Tomek said.
If the bill does become law, each area would have to collect signatures for a petition to de-annex. Then a vote would be held and a majority of voters would have to vote in favor of de-annexation before anything actually happened.