After much debate and weeks of delays a divided County Commission finally approved a tax rate. It's a thirty six cent increase over last year's taxes.
The commission settled on the rate of $4.38.
That's the same number recommended by Mayor Luttrell. The rate failed at the commission's last meeting two weeks ago. At that point the majority of the commissioners said the taxes were just too high. But since then county Mayor Mark Luttrell has been meeting with commissioners one on one and explaining why he's asking for the increase. And, he made it clear that even if the commission voted down the tax rate the Shelby County school system would not see any cuts from the budget that was already approved by the commission. Still, the panel was sharply divided.
"I'm gonna do what I've gotta do and you ought to do what's right for the citizens of this city that's all," commissioner Sidney Chism said.
"This is a serious thing, it's gonna impact families, it's gonna impact businesses," commissioner Wyatt Bunker said.
"There's nothing out there that would make sense, it's not, it doesn't even smack of sanity if you're talking about fiscal sanity for us to want to vary from a budget that's thoroughly supported," commissioner Walter Bailey said.
"If you want to continue this to where we don't have a tax base, fine but don't say that we didn't tell you," commissioner Terry Roland said.
Seven commissioners voted in support of the tax rate, five voted against, one was absent.
Two votes made the difference.
Commissioner Justin Ford changed his vote from a no to a yes. And commissioner Sidney Chisim decided to vote today, he had been abstaining on previous votes because of a conflict over funding for his family's day care center.
After the vote, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said, "I don't like raising taxes,. It's painful for me to raise taxes. It's the first time I've had to do it since I was mayor. Before I raise taxes I want to make darn sure that I've done my best to explain to the people why we've done things the way that we have and what we hope to do in the future with more innovative approaches to government."
The mayor also said he wanted to look at this budget process and see if there might be ways to avoid this type of situation where the commission approves a budget but fails to pass the tax rate to match it.
Click the link to read the property tax ordinance http://content.foxtvmedia.com/whbq/TaxRateDocument.pdf