Council Approves City Tax Collections By Trustee

By Bill Dries

The Shelby County Trustee’s office will collect property taxes for the city of Memphis under an interlocal agreement approved Tuesday, Dec. 18, by the Memphis City Council.

The agreement negotiated between Trustee David Lenoir and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. comes after several decades of attempts on both sides of the city-county governments divide at such an arrangement.

The two offices worked out the last of the specific terms Tuesday morning just before taking the contract to a council committee.

Nine employees of the city treasurer’s office which currently collects property taxes will be offered “comparable” jobs elsewhere in city government. The treasurer’s position and office which collects other fees and taxes for the city will remain in place although it will be smaller.

Lenoir had offered such a contract several times since taking office in late 2010. The difference this time was the city’s contract for collection on delinquent taxes with the Linebarger firm was nearing the end of its term and the city was looking at paying several million dollars for computer software in connection with property tax collections.

Lenoir is charging the city a flat rate of $1.25 million to assume the duties. He will not add employees to his office for the new work. Lenoir recently inked a contract to collect property taxes for the city of Lakeland which instituted its first ever property tax earlier this year.

Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris said the total cost to the city of Memphis under the interlocal agreement is $2.2 million dollars annually compared to $2.7 million if all of the duties were done by the treasurer’s office.

In other action at the last council meeting of 2012, the council approved a planned development on the northwest corner of Union Avenue and Lauderdale Street for an expansion of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car business.

The council delayed to Jan. 8 a final vote on a “wage theft” ordinance that was also delayed Monday by the Shelby County Commission.

The council also put off a vote on a resolution that would either reopen or permanently close Whitehaven golf course during the winter season until after the new year as the council seeks an independent audit of golf course operations and finances.

The city golf course and three others – Riverside, Pine Hill and Davy Crockett – will remain closed for the winter with a decision to come on their long term future in March.

The council accepted $311,704 in funding from the Center City Revenue Development Corp. for the Main Street to Main Street Multimodal Connector project that links Main Street Memphis to Broadway Street in West Memphis, Ark. including a Harahan Bridge boardwalk for bicyclists and pedestrians. The $30 million project has secured $15 million in federal government funding.

In a related resolution, the council accepted $650,000 in funding from Charles McVean, the commodities trading firm founder who has been the major force behind the boardwalk, and the Hyde Family Foundations for the design of the trails connecting to the bridge boardwalk.

And the city engineer’s office has agreed to attach new bike lane signs to existing fixtures including utility poles when the existing fixtures are within 50 feet of the start or end of bike lanes. The same goes for no parking signs.

The council approved the measure after council member Jim Strickland complained that there are too many of the free standing signs often next to existing utility poles.

The Tuesday council session was the final of the year long tenure of Bill Morrison as council chairman. He handed the gavel over to incoming chairman Edmund Ford Jr. who adjourned the meeting.