Property tax increase to pay for schools likely - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Property tax increase to pay for schools likely

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Shelby County, Tn -

Shelby County home owners should start bracing for a huge tax hike. County Commissioners expected a political battle when it came time to decide whether to raise taxes to pay for the consolidated school system, but a new legal opinion means it may be easier to pass. This legal opinion takes a tax hike that was a political uncertainty and makes it almost a sure thing.

MORE: Luttrell: Shelby County may need more revenue

Commissioners had been under the impression they would need nine votes to raise taxes. With schools consolidation having a big impact on next year's budget, this had all the makings of a political battle.

Several Republican commissioners have said they would vote against a tax increase in any circumstances. But, the county attorney says nine yes votes are only needed to raise taxes by 10 percent or more.

Only seven yes votes are needed if the Commission stays below 10 percent.

"I think it's extremely unlikely we'd get nine votes on anything. We can't even get nine votes to agree on what time of day it is on the county commission," said County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

Commissioners in favor of increasing taxes are already crunching numbers to see if staying below a ten percent tax hike will be enough money to fund schools.

"We need nine votes to get almost exactly 60 million dollars.  So we probably could get 59.  It could be within a few 100 thousand dollars, I'm sure the budget this year will be a finely tuned matter," said Commissioner Mike Ritz.

Several republican commissioners will stick to their pledge of voting against a tax hike.

Commissioner Chris Thomas sees this as just a sneaky political move, "I don't want to raise taxes, I want to cut as much as we can, I know it's going to be tough this year."

Before it even begins, the consolidated school system is estimated to have a budget deficit of about $64,000,000. Cuts would still have to be made if a 9.75 percent tax hike is passed.

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