(Memphis) The Shelby County Commission passed a billion-dollar budget Monday and gave first-round approval for a tax hike to cover costs.
Some commissioners tried various cuts, but almost none of the proposals succeeded.
Commissioner Heidi Shafer proposed cutting the budget by 15 percent, or $57 million, in order to keep the tax rate the same. When that failed, she proposed cutting the budget by more than $9 million, which is the amount for extra school funding.
When that failed, she tried to cut the commissioners’ lunch budget, totaling $15,000. But the commission could not agree to cut their weekly meals, either.
The commission did however, cut $300,000 from juvenile court, even though the administration cautioned that this move would affect the juvenile court’s progress in meeting Department of Justice mandates.
Debate over grant funding for various programs also led to new frustrations.
Several speakers came to convince the commission to maintain funding for the Community Alliance for the Homeless.
Commissioner Terry Roland said that he could not stand for taking more tax dollars from his constituents for this purpose.
“None of you I guess work. The people I represent, most of them the reason they can’t be here to put their thumbs up is because they’re working. And what you’re fixing to do is take money out of their pocket, and give to you… You know, it never ceases to amaze me, the ones that holler the loudest are the ones that work the least,” Terry Roland said.
But Commissioner Steve Mulroy later pointed out, that this grant reduced homelessness in Shelby County by double digit percentages last year, while funding for all grants has gone down by half last year.
“This is not some sort of handout to who knows what. This is essential services that are meeting basic county government needs, the kind of needs that we would otherwise be funding ourselves,” Mulroy said.
The grants help the homeless, crime victims and prevention of domestic violence, among other things.
While people may debate the merits of such programs, the certified tax rate is likely to be higher to make up for the decline in property value.
With that scenario being true for all local government entities, some taxpayers are being hit multiple times.
“This is what I got in the mail from our mayor of Germantown, just two days ago,” Mark Cordle told the board, “This is like a 45 cent tax increase. And then I hear the county’s going to increase my taxes even more.”
Cordle told News Channel 3, “This is a perfect storm of tax, tax, tax, tax.”
Meanwhile, educators are breathing a sigh of relief, since the passed budget includes paying the merged school system an extra $20 million, out of the extra $30 million Shelby County Schools asked for.
Describing the meeting, Yvonne Acey of the Memphis Education Association said, “There were quite a few disgusting moments. But I think in the end, if we’re going to be able to educate our children and fund public education, we will ultimately save the community.”