MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The City of Memphis has a budget but the Mayor says the city's battle is far from over. This year residents will enjoy a lower property tax rate, but the Mayor says hold on to those pennies because a storm is rolling in.
The Mayor's budget proposal called for a 47-cent tax increase, he repeatedly said it was the best budget for the city. Not only was his plan shot down, the council approved a tax decrease, one that Memphians could pay for later.
Budget's are never simple, "Do I wake up at night every once in a while and wonder and have a little nightmare? I do," says Mayor A C Wharton.
A contentious budget battle was laid to rest Tuesday night with taxpayers getting an eight cent reduction in property tax, not the plan the Mayor laid out. "I do not begrudge city council," Wharton says, "This is a checks and balances. Look at the charter, I send the budget down, it says nothing about sending the budget and a guarantee it will pass, and the council does what it has to do."
The Mayor says, in a lot of ways, this year taxpayers come out on top; schools are funded so there will be no stand-off with the district and there's a property tax decrease. However, it's the future that has the mayor concerned. This budget dips into reserve funds. Next year property rates will be readjusted, expected to take a significant decrease, which means the city could lose millions of dollars from taxpayers, which will need to be made up somewhere. "We're running a lot on faith and luck, right now hoping everything will go well, that's a heck of a way to run a city."
The Mayor is already pushing an effort to raise sales tax half a cent to help rebuild those reserves and give the City a cushion, for the day he fears is just around the corner. "If you look at things to come down the road this was a skirmish before the battle begins."
Mayor Wharton says the city's hardest hit years will be 2014-2018.