County Commissioners feuding over tax rate

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Things got heated at the County Commission meeting Monday.

Up for debate were the budget and the tax rate.

The good news is your tax rate isn't going up, but it seems the board has fallen back into its old ways.

One of the first items up for debate was appointing a judicial commissioner, the person who set bail and issues arrest warrants.

County Commissioners decided to postpone the decision, and while it has nothing to do with the tax rate or the budget it sent the tone of the meeting into a tailspin.

"We try to stick together when we are voting, and that vote reeked of politics," Commissioner David Reaves explained.

Reaves was talking about the vote to delay swearing in a judicial commissioner.

Thirteen people came Monday to put their name in the hat, but Commissioner Melvin Burgess suggested they delay the vote so they could focus on the budget, and he had the votes to do it.

Then the meeting went south.

"I think it de-wrangled the entire day. Nothing was accomplished," Commissioner Mark Billingsley added.

It took nearly three hours to get to the topic of property taxes.

First commissioners tried to drop the rate by 4-cents, and when that failed they tried plan b and tried for a 1-cent decrease.

That failed too.

"We had a $6 million surplus in Shelby County," Billingsley explained, "Yet we couldn't vote to approve giving taxpayers a one-cent decrease. Beyond anything, we should be paying back our tax payers but tonight we didn't do that."

Commissioner Heidi Shafer said the county isn't balancing its budget the way people in regular households do by working within its means.

Commissioners are wanting to spend more money than they've agreed to put in the tax rate. We can't do that. Those two have to agree," Shafer added.

Commissioners on the other side of the argument said now wasn't the time to cut money for schools and public safety.

"Government has the responsibility to provide a certain quality of life for our citizens," Commissioner Walter Bailey fired back.

Each side accused the other of grandstanding and pandering, and it started to resemble the commission from last year.

But not everyone gave up hope for a lower tax rate yet.

"I think it's still on the table," Reaves said.

Judge Shahan told the board they needed a judicial commissioner because it's keeping people in jail longer and costing tax payers more money.

They said they expected to vote on that at the next meeting later this month and hopefully the budget too.

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