In letter, Herenton says city has $11 million surplus

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton had the best intentions when he wrote a letter announcing an $11 million surplus in last year's budget. After all, it's good news. But some city leaders say he's taking too much credit for the good and not enough credit for the bad.

His cost cutting plan was supposed to save $20 million. Instead, it saved $31 million.

"We came out better than we anticipated," said Council Chair Tajuan Stout Mitchell, who says she's ecstatic. Through layoffs, tax hikes and project delays, City spending has been slashed.

But Mitchell says the Mayor didn't make the tough calls alone. The Council was there too and she and others worry about this line in the Mayor's letter, reading, "this fiscal challenge was due to factors beyond this administration's control."

He blames the economy, interest rates, and a legal settlement that cost the city millions.

"That's just silly," says Councilman Jack Sammons, who says the Mayor may be forgetting the bad budget forecasting that got the city in trouble in the first place.

In his letter, the Mayor doesn't blame himself or his former finance team, like he did earlier this year.

Now, Sammons - who spent months meeting with the new city finance team last Spring - says the news is good, but the story - he says - is a cautionary tale.

"It's not over by any stretch of the imagination. We can't let our guard down for a minute. We've got to continue to watch every nickel and if we don't, we're going to be right back where we started," he says.

Tuesday, Mayor Herenton will bring his good news to City Council members.  He was not available for comment Monday.