(Memphis) When it comes to ringing in the new year for Shelby County government, many leaders are not quite singing Happy Days Are Here Again, but Mayor Mark Luttrell says some things are getting better.
“So, the financial stability of the county is in good shape. Last year we were facing the devalue of property, we were facing schools that needed more money and facing the City of Memphis withdrawing money from schools. It was a perfect storm in so many ways,” Luttrell said.
Luttrell was at the University Club on Central Avenue to deliver his State of the County address to the Kiwanis Club, but his forecast for the county this year is not as stormy.
“I don’t see a storm this year. I see us trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
Regarding the county’s billion debt, Luttrell says it’s now decreasing.
“We have a debt of $1.4 billion, which we’re paying down. We were sitting at $1.8 billion some six years ago.”
But the mayor says the county still has serious issues, such as funding for the Regional Medical Center (the MED) in Memphis.
“We have concerns over the Affordable Care Act and how its impacting funding the MED and we have to have dialogue on how we’re going to sustain the MED.”
Another challenge will be providing funding for the Shelby County School District and also providing money for the new municipal school districts.
“Of course, the money we give to the municipalities will take away monies for the unified school system.”
Luttrell says to help pay for things such as schools, reduce crime, and improve health care, some cuts in government cuts will have to be made, but he tells me he doesn’t expect property taxes will have to go up to in 2014.
“I don’t see any property tax hike this year. I really don’t.”
The mayor says many efficiency measures will be put in place as he works with county commissioners in hopes of avoiding any drastic cuts this year.