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VOL. 130 | NO. 87 | Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Council Begins Hearings on Operating Budget

By Bill Dries

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The Memphis City Council is down a member as its budget committee begins hearings Tuesday, May 5, on the $656.5 million operating budget proposal of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

Council member Shea Flinn resigned Thursday effective immediately to take a position as vice president at the Greater Memphis Chamber in charge of the Chairman’s Circle.

“While it has been an honor and privilege to serve on the City Council, when opportunity knocks, you have to answer,” Flinn wrote in his two-sentence letter of resignation to council chairman Myron Lowery.

The operating budget committee hearings begin at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday with the fire department, the second-largest division in the city’s budget by dollar amount. It moves through 11 other division budgets including that of the council office and of the executive division.

The hearings continue through May 26.

The budget committee reviewed the police department operating budget last week along with its review of police capital spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is proposing a stable property tax rate of $3.40. The council isn’t likely to consider raising it either in an election year at City Hall.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main. Follow the meeting and get updates on committee sessions earlier in the council day on Twitter at @tdnpols.

On the agenda Tuesday for the first of three readings are the ordinances that set the property tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1 as well as how that tax rate is divided among the general fund, debt service and similar uses.

The ordinances are placeholders at this point, with a third and final reading vote as well as a vote on the operating and capital budgets set for the first council meeting in June.

Wharton is proposing a stable property tax rate of $3.40 and the council isn’t likely to consider raising it either in an election year at City Hall.

Whoever the council selects to fill Flinn’s vacant super district seat should be sworn in in time to make the final budget and tax rate votes at the June 2 council session.

Lowery set the May 19 council meeting as the session at which an appointment will be made with May 14 the deadline for applications.

If past council appointments are any guide, several of those who want the appointment for the remainder of 2015 are likely to be present for Tuesday’s council session and around during committee sessions earlier in the day.

On the opening day last week to pick up applications for the council vacancy, Paul Shaffer was among those with petitions out for the October elections who indicated they will also apply for the appointment.

The leader of local 474 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers started the campaign season by saying he would run for the open District 5 seat Jim Strickland is giving up in his run for mayor.

Shaffer then pulled a petition instead for the District 9 Position 2 council seat vacated by Flinn.

Other contenders are likely to follow his lead.

The remaining 12 council members consider whether they want to give a candidate on the October ballot a perceived advantage with the appointment or appoint someone who will not run for the council at least this year.

When Lee Harris resigned from the council in January to become a state Senator, the council appointed Berlin Boyd who also is a candidate for the District 7 seat on the October ballot.

A council appointment doesn’t guarantee election to the council later.

In the 2007 city elections, appointed incumbents Madeleine Taylor and Henry Hooper lost to challengers Harold Collins and Janis Fullilove respectively as part of the largest turnover of seats in the history of the mayor-council form of government.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s agenda, the council votes on the third and final reading of the ordinance that established a 5 percent Graceland tourism surcharge on all items sold on the 120-acre Graceland campus.

The revenue from the surcharge is one of several revenue streams that are financing the expansion of the campus in three phases including a $90 million, 450-room resort hotel north of the mansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

The council also votes on $241,571 in funding for a water detention basin on the athletic field at Memphis Catholic High School in Midtown.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047