Flip-Flopping Leads to New Shelby County Property Tax

Flip-Flopping Leads to New Shelby County Property Tax

It took a long time-- but the Shelby County Commission finally agreed to a new property tax rate.
MEMPHIS, TN – It took a long time, but on Monday July 22, 2013 the Shelby County Commission finally agreed to a new property tax rate. 

The decision did not come without a lot of hand-wringing; soul-searching; and a little flip-flopping.

The property tax now jumps to $4.38, with six cents of that earmarked for schools.

But, it took a long time to get there; just two weeks prior, Commissioner Justin Ford voted against a tax increase. On July 22nd, he did an about face.

“My vote today,” Ford told localmemphis.com, “I went over to the prevailing side today based on the facts that I’ve gathered over the last two weeks of study.”

By switching his vote to support a tax increase Justin Ford was a key figure.

“The one who really changed the game was Commissioner Ford.” said Jaclyn Suffel of Stand for Children.

Stand for Children lobbied Ford hard, calling his office 122 times over the weekend prior to the tax vote; and showing up at meetings with students.

“They did a wonderful job in continuing to participate in the Democracy of the county.” Ford said.

But even after winning the increase, the feeling was bittersweet.

“After all, we did raise taxes,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, “we would have preferred not to have raised taxes. But, I think we struck a good compromise.”

Not everybody agreed.

“It’s kind of a travesty, “said Shelby County resident Rosalind Johnson, “I think that raising property taxes wasn’t really a good idea.”

Some are taking a wait and see attitude, especially when it comes to schools.

“As long as the children get a good education,” Shelby County resident Ronald Meredith, told localmemphis.com, “and that’s yet to be determined.”

Education, public safety and health are the county’s main responsibilities. And with the tax increase passed, Luttrell said: “Now we have to be frugal in how we apply our budget.”

But, for the next year, at least education supporters are happy.

“This was an investment the community wanted to make,” Suffel told localmemphis.com, “and we believed this was a wise use of our tax dollars.”

But, it still seemed excessive to some.

“That is a little high,” said Meredith, “it will affect my mortgage to some degree.”

But, as Luttrell explained the increase had to be passed for the county to meet its obligations.

“I made a decision based on what I heard and discussed,” said Ford, “and feel that we faced some dilemmas had we not put a tax rate in place and a tax rate that would take care of county services.”

This was an unusual year with property devaluations and demands from the new unified school district.

But guess what? Next year’s budget process started the day after the tax increase was passed; and the education deck gets shuffled again thanks to municipal schools.

And Luttrell told localmemphis.com: “I hope we don’t have to go through this again next year.”


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