Herenton proposes tax increase - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Herenton proposes tax increase

Mayor Herenton addressing the Memphis City Council Tuesday afternoon. Mayor Herenton addressing the Memphis City Council Tuesday afternoon.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - While delivering his annual budget address Tuesday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton asked members of the city council for a tax increase.

Addressing the council, Herenton presented a budget proposal that would increase the city's property tax rate by 58 cents.

Herenton said his plan was part of an effort to avoid tapping into Memphis' $76 million rainy day fund to offset the increasing costs of running city government.

Highlights of the mayor's budget include $3.6 million earmarked to put 125 new police officers on Memphis streets, $17 million for a five percent pay increase for city employees, and $2.5 million to fund the living wage increase.

It was the first time the mayor cited solid numbers, though he has been warning of a property tax hike for months.  Herenton said he would be forced to close five libraries and four communities centers if the city council does not improve the tax increase.

Questions have been swirling as to whether or not the closures are part of a grand scheme to consolidate the city with Shelby County government by showing the dire need to streamline costs.

The county is going through the same budget battle, also threatened with a property tax increase.

Tuesday, Herenton was very open about using the word consolidation.

"I have been one of the strongest advocates of consolidating city and county government and schools," he said. "I've also said that the only way we're going to get there is an economic crisis."

Herenton said many other cities are going through the same budget crunch as Memphis, because of rising costs to run the government.    

Herenton cited flat revenues, inflation, and a pending recession as three major challenges the city faces as officials prepare a 2009 budget.

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