Shelby County faces tough financial future - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Shelby County faces tough financial future

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Friday, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton said he has learned to expect the unexpected.

"I have to plan budget for the worst case scenario, because once I set a budget, I'm set," Wharton said. "I can't in the middle of the year come back and say,
Ah, I didn't put enough money in my budget.'"
Shelby County is already projecting an $8 million deficit in its 2009-2010 operating budget.  But by the time it goes to print, that number could triple. 

Wharton just learned the city of Memphis will no longer contribute $11 million in funding to the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.  That setback will raise the debt to $19 million.  There's also a risk of losing state funding.

"Everything is in jeopardy in light of the financial straits the state is finding itself in right now," Wharton said.

The most troubling threat: $5 million that's used annually for economic and job growth in Shelby County.

"It would be particularly damaging and crushing and damaging if we do not get that, because that's where the funding for many of our businesses and job recruitment efforts come from," Wharton said.

The loss would put Shelby County $24 million in the red, unless Wharton can sweet talk the state legislature.

"If they cannot give us any new money, please, just let us keep what we've been getting," he said. "Just let us keep what we have."

Wharton said he hopes he won't find himself in that worst case scenario. 
"I've said all along I'm not going into the budget year saying, 'I'm gonna raise taxes,'" he said.

But this year, that might be the county's only hope of balancing the books. 

Click here to send an email to Anna Marie Hartman.

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