County mulls tax increase as Unified Schools loom - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

County mulls tax increase as Unified Schools loom

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Is Shelby County facing a giant tax increase? The answer depends on who you talk to.

On Tuesday, County Mayor Mark Luttrell presented his budget to the County Commission. He says it's tax neutral, while the commissioners see a large tax increase.

If you saw your property value plummet in the recent reappraisal, you may have thought, "well, at least my taxes will go down." Think again, the County is preparing to make up all of those dollars lost.

Luttrell never mentioned the words, tax increase, until he was pressed on it.

"Some people would say it's a tax increase, some would say it's not," he says.

Luttrell calls it "certifying the tax rate." The county will take in what it did last year in property taxes. But, a dramatic drop in home values left a $53 million hole. So, that means a 33-cent tax increase.

"A 33-cent tax rate increase is a property tax increase, any way you look at it," says Commissioner Terry Roland.

Roland, along with some others, says he will not vote yes on a tax increase of any kind. He wants to see cuts.

"I would challenge that Commissioner to really come forward and put on the table those areas that they can cut.  seventy-eight-percent is public safety and health," said Luttrell in response to Roland.

Roland shot back, "I'm not going to play that game.  You bring me a budget that has everything cut that we can possibly cut."

But, this is before the Unified Schools budget is even considered.

The political will is only there to raise taxes by 9.9 percent, which equals about $64 million in revenue.

If you subtract the money to fill the hole from the property reappraisals and increase court costs, and that leaves about a $5 million increase for the schools. The school board has asked for $145 million more.

"There's some tough decisions that should have been made, they still don't have a budget, we still don't know exactly what we're looking at," says Luttrell.

Commissioner Mike Ritz predicts, "I know what he's going to do with the schools.  No matter what we do for the schools, he's going to say we messed up, he's running for office next year."

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