Wharton delivers budget and leaves - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton delivers budget and leaves

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

It wasn't just what Memphis Mayor A C Wharton proposed with a suggested 2014 operating budget.

It was how he proposed it.

As prescribed in the charter, Mayor Wharton stood in front of city council and presented his budget.

Then he dropped the microphone, turned, and swiftly walked out of the council chambers.

He did not take questions from council members and left a stunned city council in his wake.

"We are grown adults here and we sacrifice a lot to be here," said councilman Harold Collins. "For us to be subjected and put in a position, in that was is disrespectful."

"I don't think we got presented a budget today," added Councilman Kemp Conrad. "What we got was a recycled speech we've now heard for three years."

Other council members took to Twitter to criticize the mayor.

About 20 minutes later Wharton's chief of staff alerted reporters that the mayor would take questions after all. He said he did not owe the councilmen a detailed budget hearing or question answer session.

"I don't want to get into a situation where we start the budget process off trying to budget by soundbites," the mayor said. "We will be in this building. I'm here in Saturdays and Sundays. Anybody who wants to ask me some questions, come put in the long hours and we'll answer all the questions."

Wharton defended his budget proposal as it raises taxes by 28 cents. He said that's necessary to fill a $30 million budget gap left by lower property assessments, and that most people won't pay more for taxes.

The police budget also goes up. There would be no layoffs, although positions have be lost to attrition. Employees would see a 2.3 percent pay raise Jan. 1.

Last budget saw a 4.6 percent pay decrease. Mayor Wharton admits his budget may not be recognizable by the time the council get through with it.

"Our high property tax is one of the three reasons people are leaving our city," said Councilman Jim Strickland. "We are losing our population, hemorrhaging population. We need to reverse that trend."

"Our tax rate, even at this proposed rate, will be as low or lower than it has been in 22 years," Mayor Wharton countered.

Under this proposal, if you saw a decrease in your assessment, you would not pay more in taxes. If your home value stayed the same or increased, you would see a large tax increase.

Shelby County Assessor of Property website: http://www.assessor.shelby.tn.us/content.aspx

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