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VOL. 123 | NO. 64 | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wharton Budget Proposal Expected to be $23.5M in the Red

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton Jr. told County Commissioners Monday that his upcoming budget proposal will have nearly $23.5 million in red ink.

Wharton’s budget message today was required by the county charter. But Wharton did not present a detailed budget plan. Property Assessor Rita Clark is still preparing critical property tax calculations that will determine how much revenue county government can expect in the fiscal year that begins in July. Those projections including how much revenue a penny in the property tax rate produces are expected in about two weeks.

Wharton and County Chief Administrative Officer Jim Huntzicker had earlier projected about a $17 million gap between revenues and expenditures for the coming fiscal year.

But in a letter sent today to the commission, Wharton said the new numbers are the result of an expected one percent decline in property tax collections. Other factors include a four percent inflationary increase in the cost of maintaining the current level of services county government provides. There is also expected to be a $1.6 million drop in revenue from the Register’s office because of the reduced volume of real estate transactions.

Wharton’s operating budget proposal will total $1.1 billion, which is $10 million less than the current county budget.

Wharton told commissioners that for the time being he is not taking any position on whether the red ink should be mopped up with a property tax hike, drastic budget cuts or some combination of the two that he referred to as a “hybrid” position. He acknowledged that all three options have a block of votes on the 13-member commission, which will have the final word on what the budget looks like.

“None of us wants to increase property taxes,” Wharton wrote in his letter to commissioners. “However, this may be required at some level given the current structure of county government.”

Wharton also again emphasized his belief that the county’s budget problems are caused by the “inefficient” structure of county government and the lack of line-item veto power for the mayor’s office.

Look for a more detailed story including reaction from commissioners in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily News.

Meanwhile, the commission today appointed Karen Camper as the new State Representative from District 87. She fills the vacancy created by the death last month of Gary Rowe and will serve the remaining nine months left in his term of office. Camper got nine votes on the commission, besting rivals Jennings Bernard and Andrew Rome Withers. Camper was a candidate in last year’s City Council elections and said today she intends to run for a full two-year term in the District 87 seat starting with the August primaries. Thursday at noon is the filing deadline.

PROPERTY SALES 124 481 17,865
MORTGAGES 127 530 20,565
BUILDING PERMITS 195 891 36,836
BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426