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Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris fears Commissioners won't find money for jobs after voting down wheel tax

Another attempt at a wheel tax increase fell flat in the Shelby County Commission Monday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Yet another attempt at a wheel tax increase falls flat in the Shelby County Commission.

Mayor Lee Harris presented a $16.50 increase proposal to the tax two weeks ago as means of filling the budget gap, saving about 144 county jobs and to build a new school in Frayser.

A $20 wheel tax proposal to fund MATA was met unfavorably earlier this year.

Tax -- it's a dirty three-letter word.

Add the word hike or wheel to it and it becomes downright filthy.

Budget shortfall-or-not, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, Commissioners were having no part of it and voted the proposed wheel tax down.

By the Harris administration's account, the $16.50 wheel tax increase would bring the county $10.5-million in revenue.

It was the Mayor's hope that would make up for $13.5 million in proposed budget cuts.. to the $1.4-billion budget for 2021.

Wheel tax revenue was to also have been used to build a school in Frayser, an area that's not seen a new school building in decades.

But with its declining population, some thought perhaps that was not the best idea and Shelby County School leaders say money like that would be better used toward improving learning technology for students across the district.

Harris responded after the Commission meeting by saying he doesn't know where Commissioners would find the $10.5-million needed to pay salaries.

Commissioners will hold their budget retreat this Friday in the Shelby Farms Ballroom, where they plan to social distance with 8 percent occupancy of the 250 capacity room.

It's sure to be their toughest in some time.

The nearly $50-million in Federal Relief Funding through the CARES ACT will help some, but as one commissioner mentioned during Monday's meeting there's got to be more belt tightening to get through this.