Council committee discusses budget audit - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council committee discusses budget audit

The city's top finance official was scheduled to give city council members critical information Tuesday about the city budget. But for the third time, he told them he wasn't ready.

Some council members were clearly upset.

"I think we need to have the answers," said council member Carol Chumney.

Chumney wasn't the only one tired of waiting, but she came prepared to make her point. With no answers about the condition of the budget, she wanted to bring in outside help: an independent auditor.

"I'll just suggest to you that four weeks is not enough time for me to look at this entire budget, to say it's right, wrong or whatever," said Memphis Chief Financial Officer Robert Lipscomb, "and I'm not going to be a victim of that Catch-22."

The city's current auditor hasn't yet delivered completed reports about last year's budget. Lipscomb refused to share early numbers that he says are likely to change.

"It's going to be very difficult for me after three weeks to continuously hear well, we don't know yet, we don't know yet, we don't know yet," said council member Tajuan Stout Mitchell. "We've still got to look at some things."

Lipscomb gave them nothing except a strong recommendation that they put the immediate breaks on a controversial payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, or PILOT, that aims to lure big business to Memphis. Lipscomb says the program isn't working right and may be costing the city millions of lost tax dollars.

But he urged the council to wait on hiring a newer, bigger audit until the current audit is done.

"The fact that the administration still can't tell us after six weeks what the numbers even are, I want to tell you that this is a very unusual situation," Chumney said. "I'm very concerned about it, and everybody should be."

The Council voted to give Lipscomb and Chumney more time. In two weeks, they want numbers from Lipscomb and a presentation from the current auditor. Then they'll vote on Chumney's idea. They will also vote on a six-month moratorium for the city's PILOT program.

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