MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The Local I -Team is digging into Shelby County’s multi-billion-dollar budget. Turns out commissioners found lots of your tax dollars for non-profits.
From $1.5 million for Girls Inc. to $1 million to renovate the University of Memphis’ indoor pool, the list is long.
That’s on top of the $200,000 each commissioner gets for their own “pet projects.” Shelby County Commissioners used to get $150,000 to hand out in individual grants to non-profits. This year they raised it to $200,000 each.
“The grant program is a really unique program,” said commissioner Michael Whaley.
Whaley is excited to hand out grant money to worthy projects. Elected last year, he has yet to hand out grants, but says it’s important for the community.
“I think there’s a lot of valuable organizations in our community that are doing really good work,” said Whaley.
In addition to the re-occurring commissioner grants, every year the county commission hands out additional money to other non-profit projects. They are usually larger sums for capital projects.
“Those are one-time expenditures that are not re-occurring. Our money is re-occurring each budget year,” said commissioner Eddie Jones.
This year, the handing out of grant money was a hot topic at commission budget meetings.
“There was a real hefty debate about all of these items, but I think everything we voted on when it comes to that, was to make a positive difference in some of these communities,” said Jones.
At least one commissioner says it’s a slippery slope for public money to be used for charities.
Shelby County’s tax rate is $4.05. Every penny equals about $2 million. So how much of your money is being given to non-profits and charities? Commissioner Jones estimated that for us, “what we approved may be somewhere close to $10 million, so that would be probably a nickel. ”
Commissioner Edmund Ford said the amount was raised from $150,000 to $200,000 for each commissioner, because that’s what city council members get for grant handouts.