VOL. 128 | NO. 131 | Monday, July 8, 2013
Commission to Vote on $4.38 Tax Rate
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners take a final vote Monday, July 8, on a new county property tax rate of $4.38.
The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.
The $4.38 tax rate, proposed to fund the new operating budget and provide $20 million in new funding for the consolidated school system, failed by one vote on the second of three readings at the last commission meeting in June.
Commissioner Sidney Chism abstained and commissioner Melvin Burgess was absent.
Chism has since said he intends to abstain on third reading because he and his wife operate a day care center.
But Burgess, who is part of the leadership cabinet of the merged school system and was audit division director of the old Memphis City Schools, is expected to vote on the tax rate. He would be the seventh vote necessary for passage.
Burgess voted in June 26 committee sessions for the tax rate recommendation.
Commissioner Terry Roland is among those who have consistently voted against the 6-cent tax hike and the 30-cent recertified rate hike.
“If we don’t raise taxes, we can revisit the budget,” Roland said in the committee discussion. “I do think there’s a middle ground. I do think we can go back to that budget and cut.”
The commission approved the county’s operating budget last month for the fiscal year that began July 1.
The tax rate funds that budget and part of the schools budget. The current $4.02 tax rate would go up 30 cents to provide the same amount of revenue for Shelby County government taking into account property value lost in the 2013 property reappraisal. The additional six cents beyond that is for the extra schools funding.
Shelby County property owners outside Memphis pay an extra 4 cents on the existing rate and would continue to on the new rate to retire rural school bonds for the construction of Arlington High School.
Roland and other opponents of the $4.38 tax rate argue that county government should cut to keep the tax rate as close to the current $4.02 rate as possible.
“We might have to go up on the tax just a little bit,” Roland said, referring to a tax hike above $4.02 but below the recertified $4.32 rate.
Some Memphis City Council members made a similar argument during City Hall’s budget season, which ended last month with a $3.40 city property tax rate.
Commissioner Walter Bailey is among those favoring the $4.38 county tax rate.
“It’s the responsible thing to do,” he argued. “I don’t see any other alternative. I don’t see anything else that’s floating out there that’s proposed as a budget that would serve as any other alternative. We just don’t have a choice.”
The commission also elects a chairman and chairman pro tempore Monday for the one- year term that begins Sept. 1.
Also on the agenda is Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s nomination of Julie Furr to the Memphis and Shelby County Building Code Board.
Furr’s confirmation by the commission was delayed last month after Furr was among a group of structural engineers who spoke out against a delay in implementing new seismic building code standards.
The commission voted to delay the effective date for the new standards until the end of calendar year 2013 at the urging of homebuilders and developers who say the standards would increase building costs.
The commission also votes on a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi to participate in a regional research project on ambient mercury levels in the air. The project will use a Shelby County Health Department monitoring station, and the agreement involves no expense to county government.