Memphis to pull funding to health dept. - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Memphis to pull funding to health dept.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - In a county already strapped for cash, Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton received some bad financial news on Wednesday: The City of Memphis is pulling its half of the joint funding that operates the Memphis and Shelby County Health Dept.

"You're looking at $21, $22 million total funding," Wharton said. "One half city, one half county. They're basically saying, 'We're not going to contribute the one half that we have been contributing in the past.'"

The news came in a letter hand-delivered to Wharton's office and signed by City of Memphis Chief Financial Officer Keith McGee. 

There's no explanation as to why, effective July 1, 2009, the city will pull $11 million in funding. But Wharton says it's a way for Memphis to cut costs, and it's legal to do so. "Obviously, we cannot do without the essential services of the health department."

Because the health department's services are mandated by the state, the county will have to pick up the slack in a budget year that's already reflecting an $8 million shortfall.

Wharton says that if the county gets stuck with the bill, he has only one available alternative to cover the cost. "We'll simply have to increase the taxes. I hate to use that word, but we simply don't have some reserve that we can say 'we'll just make it up out of this.'"

By law, the city must give six months notice before it can pull the health department's funding.

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