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Are High Property Taxes To Blame For Memphis Economy?

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(Memphis) People in Shelby County pay the highest property taxes in the state, and experts says the city will drown in those rates if we don't bring them down.

Meanwhile in Nashville, property owners pay nearly half and are seeing big rewards.

Shelby County Commissioners are trying to figure out why Memphis economy is stagnant, barely inching along, while business is booming just up the interstate in Nashville.

They're even bringing in the experts to get to the bottom of it.

Steve Guinn’s company owns business properties in Shelby county and Davidson County where Nashville is.

He says the comparisons are startling.

“In my view, we can’t continue to take the same base and tax it more. We need to grow the base and tax it more, and in the end we will have more money,” said Guinn.

People in Memphis and Shelby County pay a combined $7.78 cents per $100 of property.

In Nashville and Davidson County it’s $4.66, which is 40 percent less.

Memphis has nearly double the vacancies when it comes to business properties, and Nashville still makes out with more money because properties are assessed at a higher value.

According to the Department of Labor, Memphis’s economy has grown half a percent in ten years, while Nashville’s has grown nearly three times that.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy says the study is flawed because Guinn didn't include factors like crime, schools, and workforce.

Commissioner Steve Baser says the study should be a wake-up call for the county government and the city of Memphis.

“I hope as a commission we can agree to cut four to six cents this year and keep that as a trend and try to do that over time,” said Baser.

Guinn says fixing the problem will take decades, but he is giving some ideas for solutions.

“What I thought would be interesting is for the county to work with the city and say OK, we’re going to do a joint deal. You lower and we’ll lower,” said Guinn.

This way no one government body would shoulder all the burden.

Committee chair Heidi Shafer says the board will consider creating an ad hoc committee to look at the county's finances and see where it can cut to afford a property tax reduction.


  • Michael

    Fifty years ago Memphis was definitely ahead of Nashville. Thirty years ago, arguably it was tit for tat. Twenty years ago, Nashville started easing ahead. Ten years ago, Nashville began leaving Memphis in the dust, especially post 2008 crisis.

    That being said, I’m a pro-Memphis guy, but a realistic pro-Memphis guy that acknowledges the good, bad, and the sometimes totally stupid aspects of Memphis without using hyperbole in either case. I do not think it will necessarily take decades to “fix” the problems as Guinn is quoted, as the problems are never really totally fixed. However, it will be nice to see the problems pushed more to the background, than the foreground as they are now. With decent leadership, it could easily be done in a decade, but I know that is easier said than done.

  • Hugh G, Rection

    You hit the nail on the head Michael. The problem is that all the top leaders in most of the city government departments are more interested in feathering their on nest than serving the people.

    • Porsha

      You need to raise the property taxes not lower them. Homeowners and business people need to do more to help those of us that rent. I am a single mom with 4 children and they want to cut my EBT benefits. I cant feed my family on this. I get nothing from the childs daddys and its tough to make ends meet. My kids eat free at school but that arnt enough. I see those folks in those houses with those fanci cars and I know they can pay more.

      • jbmw123

        Your rent will go up if your landlord has to pay more in property taxes. Maybe you should go back to school and learn a trade or at least proper English.

      • J Willis

        They are cutting my EBT benefits too. Raise the property taxes and help of us that need assistance. If not for my section 8 housing and EBT benefits…I dont know what I would do. Im 53 years old and its hard for me to work. The government need to help us out. Charging an income tax would help to.

  • joe

    LOL you’re too stupid to realize what the REAL reason is. Baltimore is going the same route….businesses moving out, upper to middle class moving away..and all for the same reason, thug ghetto crime.

  • Joe

    its pretty simple……lower my property taxes…..or I’m moving to Fayette county…..ive had about enough of high taxes and ambulance fees and exorbitant sewer and garbage fees

  • nuclear mike

    Memphis is Detroit…nothing more to be said as there is no white money to hold up Memphis as once was and the endless tax increases to keep taking and not creating more business is the result of the black leadership’s inabilities to accomplish positive business incentatives.

    • nuclear mike

      …and the City cannot afford this:

      “Drop was supposed to give 25 year city employees a set date to retire, and meanwhile groom the next generation. The program came under scrutiny when former police director, Larry Godwin, received an extra $94,000 a year in pension and interest for each of the three years he was enrolled in DROP.”

  • CJB

    Yes I do blame the unnecessarily high property taxes. They keep heightsing, as the old folks say, their pockets and not fixing the problems around here. Out propery taxes go up so high, lower appraisals and we don’t see any results of the promises being made by the people on the board? Something doesn’t smell too good on this. Its a nice city but it needs cleaning up. We are broke but they wanna buy a stadium and/or build dog park???????????? IJS

  • Terrie

    I say the money to save the City is right there already just being stolen by the employees, mainly the one’s in charge! The audits that are ran on the Government offices here lately are bringing up front the disarray of the money being spent but not accounted for. Including all the equipment that wasn’t accounted for but assumed lost. Really?? The persons in charge of this simply retires or resigns but should be held accountable for if not pay back! I think ALL the City of Memphis departments should be audited, NEW policy’s put in place, and once/if proven someone is stealing, put them in jail!!

  • longgone

    Commissioner Steve Mulroy says the study is flawed because Guinn didn’t include factors like crime, schools, and workforce.

    Keeping electing the same people keep getting the same results.

  • Lee Adams

    Memphis has too many vacant lots, dilapidated houses and apartments and buildings that provide little or no tax revenue for the city. There must be a concerted effort to supply quality affordable housing. The city has too much control over housing and community development grant monies. The city must do a better job of negotiating with public and private developers; reclaiming lots, remodeling houses, constructing new homes and putting the unemployed and underemployed back to work; thereby increasing its tax base all around as well as making the city more attractive. Let’s stop the blame game and begin the brain game. After all, the mind is an awesome thing to waste.

  • LaShundra

    They need to raise taxes to confiscate atleast 90% of Memphians income. They also need to start confiscating private property and redistribute it to Democrats, uh, I mean poor people.

  • BillChill

    Wow…. The ignorance of people commenting on this thread is beyond my comprehension.
    Porsha… why are you single and have 4 kids? Why didn’t you roll over, or cross your legs, or make him/them pull out? Facials work too!
    Crime/drugs is the root of the problem. Eliminate that, and recovery will come.

  • Gray ghost

    It seems the problem is obvious but everyone wants to skirt around it and not face it. The problem isn’t because of all the city’s employees. This mayor and his cronies make exuberant salaries that we the citizens do not see or benifit much from. As a result of their questionable real estate purchases from their families or cronies with the tax payers monies. Then one of their other cronies company then manages it. As the facts are as they are, the (democratic) policy allows them to do this because their constituents turn a blind eye or they are not educated enough to see the internal destruction of this city. It happened in other city’s as well. The citizens of Memphis should demand restitution from these questionable unfair (democratic) practices.

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