VOL. 132 | NO. 17 | Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Deannexation Group Gets Dollar Figures on Leaving Memphis
By Bill Dries
If South Cordova, Windyke and Southwind leave Memphis, the city should get to keep sales tax and property tax revenue generated by commercial properties in those three recently annexed areas.
That, says Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, is the deal to be had in ongoing deannexation discussions.
“There’s a real possibility that they could deannex more if they wanted to, but those three areas are the ones that make sense,” Roland said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.”
But Memphis City Council member Patrice Robinson, who is also on the deannexation committee exploring local options, says it is not that simple.
“All you are going to do is open another can of worms because there are other communities,” Robinson said. “The Hickory Hill community is really important to our city. Right now, those citizens feel a little disenfranchised. But because we have so much industry in that area, we are able to draw some additional dollars … We don’t want to lose that for the city of Memphis.”
“Behind The Headlines,” hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, the deannexation working group will get a better idea of the dollar figures involved.
The local group was formed in the wake of bills in the Tennessee Legislature last year that would have allowed deannexation referendums in several Tennessee cities including Memphis.
The bills died as the mayors of Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga mounted a vocal opposition to the possibility that areas incorporated 18 years ago could potentially deannex.
Roland expects new deannexation bills in the current legislative session.
“Let’s be realistic,” he said. “We probably do need one to hold their feet to the fire. It’s a question of if they are going to go kicking and screaming.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has said he is open to a discussion about whether the city should reduce its size.
Robinson said she doesn’t rule out any kind of scenario that might lead to deannexation. But she added it’s not as simple as areas recently annexed – like South Cordova, Southwind and Windyke, which were annexed between 2006 and 2012.
“It’s more than just deannexation,” she said. “You have to look at so many individual services that have been provided. How much it costs –what percentage of that cost did those citizens pay into it? … You have to have financial geniuses at the table to help us navigate that so that the people who remain in the city are not negatively impacted.”
Roland claims that the city saves $10 million by not providing services to Southwind, South Cordova and Windyke and that the county could easily step back into those areas as a service provider.
“The sheriff’s department never drew down after we lost the areas,” he said. “All those people start paying fire fees and it brings the cost of our (county) fire department down.”
Robinson disputes Roland’s estimate.
“The data hasn’t proven that yet,” she said. “We didn’t drill down to some other basic services that need to be added to those numbers.”
County Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy, who is also on the local deannexation committee, has expressed some doubt that the county can step back in and easily provide services to the three areas or other areas that might deannex.
Like Robinson, Roland says there are bigger issues than infrastructure spending, tax revenue and services in a particular area. But the bigger issue he sees is different than the one Robinson sees.
“The biggest thing in Shelby County to keep us viable is we’re going to have to go down on property taxes. You’ve got to keep people from moving,” Roland said. “We’ve got to give incentives to keep people from moving. If you don’t want more blight, if you don’t want more vacant neighborhoods, if you don’t want the outer counties overtaking us in population and taking our population away from us – think like that. If we don’t do something quick, that’s what is going to happen.”