Shelby County Commission Fails to Pass Tax Rate

Shelby County Commission Fails to Pass Tax Rate

The commission couldn’t agree on any tax hike proposal, and the county was already a week into the new budget season.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Monday was supposed to be the day the Shelby County Commission approved a tax increase to fund a budget they already approved in two prior readings. That didn't happen.

The commission couldn’t agree on any tax hike proposal, and the county was already a week into the new budget season.

If approved, the tax rate in Shelby County would have jumped from $4.02 to $4.38, with six cents of that earmarked to the unified school system.

The tax ordinance needed seven votes to pass; it got six, and a flurry of motions and amendments left everybody’s head spinning.

“I think toward the end of the discussion there was a tremendous amount of confusion,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

“I mean, it was very confusing.” Jaclyn Suffel told localmemphis.com. Suffel was in attendance with a group representing Stand For Children.

“I’m not really sure what happened, I thought the tax hike was defeated. It was confusing,” said Yvonne Burton, who was there in opposition to the increase.

Even Commission Chairman Mike Ritz seemed rattled.

“Somebody tell me what to do,” Ritz said to all assembled, to laughter.

In the end, after nearly two hours of discussion, the commission could not agree on a tax increase and referred it back to the budget committee.

“The decisions they made today do not paint a pretty picture,” Luttrell stated.

Consider this: the county is already operating under an approved budget with no funding source.

Luttrell said, “The reality is in county government if you are going to cut, you are going to have to cut in the areas of public safety and health."

That means law enforcement and The MED.

Stand For Children had a large group on hand in support of the tax hike for education.

“We’re disappointed,” said Suffel, “We are watching politics get played with the well-being of our children.”

Even the make-up of the vote caught some off guard.

“I was a little surprised that some voted against it,” said Burton, “that I thought would vote for it.”

That included Democrat James Harvey. “I will not be voting for a tax increase,” he announced to the crowd.

The reality now is that it could be a month before a tax rate is set for Shelby County.

“I wish we could have avoided it,” said Luttrell, “it’s obviously back to the drawing board.”

County Commissioner Terry Roland said that despite the problems over the tax ordinance, the day was not memorable for Shelby County.

He did say December 14th would be memorable. That’s the day Highway 385 is scheduled to be completed, and according to Roland, the day the road toward lower taxes becomes available for anybody looking to get out of Shelby County.
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