A closer look at Mayor AC Wharton's budget proposal

County commissioners are getting their first look at the mayor's budget proposal, the good and the bad. The good is there will ne no new property taxes and this proposal indicates new dedication to slashing county debt. The bad: the county might not get out of the red for eight years, and that is only if they stay on course.

Crafting next year's $1.3 billion budget was a balancing act for Mayor AC Wharton. County Commissioner David Lillard is on the Budget and Finance Committee. He's optimistic about the proposal, but with reservations.

"I think it doesn't mean we're not gonna look hard at areas where we could save further money or collect further money that's already due the county. So those areas will still get their degree of scrutiny I think," explained Lillard.

With Shelby County's debt nearly tipping the $2 billion mark, the mayor defended his decision to a three percent pay raise for county workers.

"We feel that since we're doing the same, if not more, with fewer employees they are indeed deserving of the raise," said Wharton.

For the first time, the mayor says the budget includes pay-as-you-go funding.

"We're talking about $2 million, but you've got to start somewhere. We've just got to break this addiction to borrowing," Wharton said.

Lillard strongly supports the concept.

"We're gonna look down two or three years to see where we're gonna be with regards to school capital funding and other major expenditure items," he said.

Wharton has concerns both school systems might not feel all their needs will be met.

"But at least we'll be able to make a good start for meeting their full needs," Wharton

While the plan does not include a property tax increase, Wharton says the county must explore new sources of income.

He says if we do not find new revenue sources, by the year 2014 the county will have to impose a 14 cent property tax increase. Lillard is optimistic the county will pass the budget by the July 1 due date. That has not always been the case in the past.