Battle looming on County budget, Chairmanship - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Battle looming on County budget, Chairmanship

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

These days it seems nothing ever comes easy when it comes to dealing with issues for the Shelby County Commission.

By the time the gavel sounds tomorrow a budget, first approved in May, could finally gain passage 9 days into the new

fiscal year or it could be back to the drawing board for Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's Administration.

Somewhere Memphis Mayor AC Wharton is smiling.

For a governmental body crippled in recent years by acrimonious conflicts and unbridled personal agendas, an observer could easily come to one conclusion on the eve of one of this year's most important votes.

"On the tax vote…I mean who knows?" says County Commissioner Steve Mulroy. "You can go broke trying to figure out what the Shelby County Commission's going to do."

Yes, you'd probably find better odds at success by placing bets on the pooches at Southland Greyhound Park since they seldom veer off track. But, Monday Commissioners will again have the opportunity to get the county's finances back on track toward financial soundness by voting on what's scheduled to be a final reading of the county budget for fiscal year 2014. On the table is a more than 370-million dollar budget that includes, a 30 cent property tax hike and an additional 6 cents for county school funding, raising the certified tax rate to $4.38 cents. Doable, but maybe not all at once.

 "First of all we gotta see if we can get the seven votes for the tax ordinance as publicized," Commission Chairman Mike Ritz noted. "If it comes in that the votes are for 6 cents less than we'll have to make a decision about what we're gonna do with the budget. None of that will be made tomorrow."

Ah, yes the vaunted seven votes. Two months ago it looked like a lock. But, with Commissioner Sidney Chism cautiously sitting out for a second time on voting due to an alleged conflict of interest that'll place him before an ethics committee on July 23rd, it remains for an equally cautious Commissioner Melvin Burgess Jr. to cast his ballot based on a county attorney's opinion. Yet, Commission Chairman Ritz sounds a confident tone. Which is not to say he inwardly might be cautiously optimistic.

"I am quite sure the administration will have to cut about 10 million dollars from their budget if in fact we can't get all 36 cents," Ritz says.

If the budget battle doesn't provide enough drama also on tap will be voting to elect the next Commission Chairman who'll take over on September 1st. Ritz, a Republican, has made it known he'd like to preside for a second straight year. However, he's expected to the face the challenge of history and his Democratic colleague Steve Mulroy.

"I know the procedures. I know the rules. They trust me to be fair to all sides. I wouldn't use the chair to push a particular agenda," said Mulroy. "Putting me in would return us to the tradition that we used to have of rotating every year and rotating between Democrats and Republicans."

If I were at Southland, the safe bet would be win, place and show on both contenders.

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