MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - These are taxing times in Memphis, and Mayor A C Wharton says the city is in desperate financial shape.
On Tuesday the city council will vote on a plan to raise taxes by 18 cents this year. They'll still have to vote on how to deal with a projected $40 million deficit for next year's budget, which takes effect in June.
Two years ago, city council members cut taxes by 18 cents, so they aren't calling this a tax increase, just raising the rates to what they were.
But if you pay more this year than last year, what would you call it?
City council members say before they talk taxes, they want to see budget cuts. All of this is happening in a city where homeowners pay the highest property taxes in the state.
Here it is in March, and the city is $17 million in the hole. If the city were a business, they'd have a sale, burn the place down, and try to collect on the insurance.
Mayor Wharton says, "We have scraped and borrowed, laid off people, took money from employees. And I still stand by that bonus, by the way."
Let's talk about that bonus for city employees. They got it during the last Christmas season. People were told the city's budget was looking good.
Now, the mayor says things didn't go as well as he hoped. Six million bucks in bonuses are gone, and the city swims in a red sea of debt.
"You know, I don't point fingers, but the reality is if we had $6 million back from those bonuses, which I still stand by, that we gave to employees - they earned it - we would still be short."
So A C Wharton is in hot seat. In a city full of people taxed to the max, will he be going to the taxpayers again for more?
Mayor Wharton will tell city council members that he's willing to cut the $6 million he gave in bonuses from other programs if needed.
They can take it out of my hide, he said.
On Tuesday, the carving will begin.