Shelby County Commissioners At War Over Property Tax Rate

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - There was hope in the air, when the gavel sounded and committee chairman Van Turner belted out a friendly sounding "Good Morning to all."

Somebody should have sealed that moment. It was all down hill after that.

After a bombastic seven and a half hour budget meeting Monday, many thought setting the tax rate would be a piece of cake.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's  budget called for no tax increase, no tax decrease.

But it appeared, after taking votes, the commissioners would vote to cut property taxes by three cents. After all, said Shelby County Commissiioner Mark Billingsley, "Three cents is not much on the property tax rate. It will mean a few bucks quite frankly. It's not a whole lot of money, it's a few bucks."


A little property tax cut seemed like the right thing to do for the Republican members of the commission. "I've been on this board for seven years," said Commissioner Terry Roland of Millington, "... and this is the first chance we've really had to give something back to the people paying the bills."

All of that was too much for 77-year-old Democrat Walter Bailey. He talked of driving a street in his district, looking at overgrown fields, abandoned houses. "I've never seen such blight," he said. Bailey believes it is the job of government to provide services and help to those who can't afford it. "The rich can take care of themselves," he said. "We can't afford to have tax decreases. If anything, we need tax increases to provide more services."

All of THAT was too much for Republican and Shelby County Mayoral candidate Terry Roland. "I know Commissioner Bailey hasn't been to my district," Roland said, "... because everyone I talk to says look, if we don't start going down on property taxes, I'm going to leave."

For Republican Commissioners, it's back to the drawing board. Meaning old arguments become new again. Commissioner Heidi Shafer says the property tax cut is needed because "Tax cuts spur the economy."

Commissioners will meet Monday for a second vote on the tax rate. After the vote, a special meeting will need to be called for a third and final vote.

 


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