Are High Property Taxes To Blame For Memphis Economy?

(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.