Council members warn of next year's budget battles

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - If you thought this year's budget battles were contentious for Shelby County and Memphis, wait until next year, when the cuts in spending and services could be even greater.

More home foreclosures and lower property values mean fewer taxes going into local coffers, ultimately producing fewer services for you and your family.
"We're going to be looking at some tough choices where we are going to have to take things that have been historical needs, things that we need as a community and we're going to have to move them over to the want side of the ledger," Memphis City Council member Shea Flinn said Tuesday.

According to Flinn, 2009 is projected to be a tougher economic year than 2008, and that could mean big changes to how government works.
"I think consolidation is probably where we need to go in the future. How we get there is as important as getting there," he said.
But Flinn insists consolidation likely will not happen next year. What could happen is a significant cut in government spending, and therefore cuts in services.

County Commissioner James Harvey agreed.

"We're going to overlap our deficit with another deficit," Harvey said. "If we reduce our's going to require us reducing services."

Harvey said the county has a $2 billion deficit right now, and cuts next year could eliminate more county jobs as well.

"I am for consolidation if it works and if it makes a positive impact, not for consolidation just to have an overlapping of government," Harvey said.

In the end, both city and county leaders expect to make tough decisions, and say it might not be pretty.

"We're going to do things that are necessary that might force us to not get reelected. That's what this crisis is calling for. It's calling for leadership and sacrifice," Flinn said.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.