Shelby Co smooth sailing, but expect rough waters - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Shelby Co smooth sailing, but expect rough waters

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Steering a multi-million dollar government ship away from rough seas hasn't been easy, but so far things are holding.

Shelby County's government is upright and sailing, from a financial standpoint.

While addressing local corporate executives Mayor Mark Luttrell said, though, to expect some rough water in the near future as he laid out some fiscal challenges.

"Financially our government is sound," he said. "We have about $90 million in our reserve fund."

Luttrell says even using a map to help direct the county toward financially stability, taxpayers need to be aware: the waters are looking choppy on the horizon.

"Realistically I think we have to expect that the school budget will reflect a deficit," he said. "The county will have to consider how we will fund the deficit."

Shelby County has a AA-plus rating, meaning the county is in good standing to borrow  money for construction or capital projects.

Mayor Luttrell says the county is still trying to navigate what may happen if U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays, Jr., rules for a Unified School System. Since Shelby County is now solely responsible for funding education, the exact deficit amount isn't clear, the mayor added. It's exactly why he's asking  the school system to tighten the belt, if it means privatizing departments including custodians, transportation and shutting down schools with low attendance.

"Before you ask for an increase in your expenditures you need to justify how you have spent in the pass and I'm waiting to see how the school system works through that process," he said.

The mayor made it very clear: once the school system has tightened its belt and there are no more notches left, a property or sales tax increase may be the only resolution.

"However we must strike a balance, understanding our children are our most important investment for the future," he said.

As the county maneuvers through what's expected to be a turbulent financial year ahead, Mayor Luttrell said the county is keeping a close eye hoping to steer us away on potentially what could be a massive, catastrophic iceberg, as Congress attempts to avoid a fiscal cliff.

"It will have a significant impact on everything from interest rates we pay to really our infrastructure roads and bridges, the quality of education, how our jails and prisons are managed," he said.

Even with a strong, fiscally responsible ship, it's difficult to batten down the hatches when there's already little to no excess baggage.

"How can we run or manage a progressive government, do it in a different way that is more cost efficient that's going to be challenging going forward?," the mayor said.

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