State Offers Stern Warning to Memphis on City Spending

State Offers Stern Warning to Memphis on City Spending

The Tennessee comptroller is warning the City of Memphis to straighten out its money mess. Right now the city is spending cash it doesn't have.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Tennessee comptroller is warning the City of Memphis to straighten out its money mess. Right now the city is spending cash it doesn't have.

Make believe Memphis is a big smoking V-8 engine, with property tax as the gasoline that makes it run. When the tax money is low, the engine sputters. According to the state comptroller, the city is just putting gas back in the tank and worrying about paying for it later.

"You could say this was a serious intervention," said the city's Chief Administrative Officer, George Little, on the letter from State Comptroller Justin Wilson telling Memphis city officials to shape up when it comes to handling the money.

"I mean it's basically paying for what we want in a way that is sustainable over time. It also means setting up obligations, including obligations to the Memphis City Schools."

The letter says Memphis city officials need to pay the school system the $57 million they've already been court ordered to pay years ago.

All of this comes in the middle of budget meetings that are becoming louder and more contentious every day.

For example, the council decided to spend $800,000 for Denver Park in Frayser. They did it by cutting more than one million dollars from the Riverfront Development Corporation for their cobblestone renovation project along Wolf River Harbor.

"Our job is to say where we're going to find the money. And it's not fun and games. This is hardball now," stated Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn. "If you're going to add a project like Denver Park, a very worthy project, it's got to come from somewhere else."

The council can show everybody things have changed with this budget. Some are saying this is the one where they'll try to break bad habits. But that's been said before, and bad habits in Memphis politics are tough to break.

I'll be watching.

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