Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Memphis City Council votes for property tax reduction

In a 10 to 3 vote, the City Council approved a budget that will reduce property taxes. The council boldly voted for Bill Morrison's proposal to reduce the city's contribution to the Memphis City Schools from $93.5 million to $20.2 million. Key points from the Commercial Appeal:

Morrison's first idea was to give the school system $7.1 million. Under his new proposal, 19 cents of the city tax rate will go to the schools, down from roughly 83 cents. Morrison said a similar cut would be made to the school system next year.

Morrison's proposal, which passed on a 10-3 vote, also includes $15 million in debt forgiveness for the state's largest school system, which the city started funding in 1937.

Morrison, in a refrain echoed by several other council members, said city residents are being taxed twice for Memphis City Schools -- once as city residents and again as county dwellers -- and that taxpayers deserved a break.

"We simply want to phase this out," he said. "This is about equalization of the tax base."

... Council members cited a series of ongoing investigations at the school system involving waste and accused school board members of not doing enough to trim the school system's budget.

"It is time for the school system to be held accountable," said Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, a former school board member.

"We cannot ignore that there are problems," she said. "It's high time for parents to come out and require more accountability not just from the city government but from the school system."

Morrison described his budget as a "realistic" plan that would not require any tax increases over the next four years. His plan, which cut Mayor Willie Herenton's proposed budget by roughly 5 percent, includes raises for city employees, funds for 125 new police officers a year and "living wage" and health care cost increases.

Morrison's budget also includes funding for the five libraries and four community centers Herenton proposed closing.

I am pleased to see this majority-new City Council thinking creatively and using the financial levers at its disposal to reform the bloated and corrupt Memphis City schools bureaucracy.

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