Luttrell Tax Rate Passes With Help from Chism and Ford

Vote for $4.38 tax rate clears last hurdle at Commission meeting.

Posted by Jackson Baker on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, who has been abstaining on all prior votes on the 2013-14 tax rate out of consideration for a possible conflict-of-interest situation, made the dramatic announcement at the beginning of Monday's meeting that he would be voting, and explained why.

Previously, said Chism, he had been legally advised that, as proprietor of a South Memphis day care center which received some of its funding from Shelby County government, it might be a conflict of interest for him to vote on a budget that authorized such funding. The center, which the commissioner said was under the control of members, not himself, was in any case no longer receiving such funding, and Chismj continued,, “I’’ve been advised that with full disclosure I will be able to vote.”

On another contentious issue, Chism acknowledged that he would be a board member of a charter school whicdh his granddaughter has applied to operate but that such a circumstance would not arise until he had left the Commission, even if her application got approval. So he regarded himself as unhampered on that count as well.

The bottom line was that Chism would be recorded in favor, and that, along with another major conversion, that of Commissioner Justin Ford, would make the the final tally 7-5-1 in favor of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s $4.38 tax rate, with the lone absentee being Commissioner Heidi Shafer, a tax-rate opponent.

Ford’s conversion was actually a return to form. The commissioner had voted aye on the first two readings of the Luttrell tax rate, but he switched to no, along with new chairman-elect James Harvey two weeks ago. On onday Ford said he had spoken with members of the administration about their considering the idea of money for summer jobs programs and was satisfied that they were open to discussion.

The absence of Shafer from Monday's meeting, along with the (relatively) perfunctory resistance put up by tax-rate opponents, was an indication that Commissioners of all persuasions saw the handwriting on the wall and that there would be no more stalemates on the tax-rate question like those which have stalled implementation of the budget in recent weeks.

Various grants and new hires that were put on deep freeze until a tax rate could be approved are now free to be implemented. That includes programs for the homeless that had received vocal support from audience menmbers at the last several meetings.

So forgone was the conclusion as the relatively brief meeting got underway that the only tension was an angry exchange between Commissioner Terry Roland and chairman Mike Ritz over a verbal attack by Roland on Commissioner Walter Bailey, a tax-rate supporter.

Ritz gaveled Roland down as "out of order" for making "personal" remarks, and Roland responded "You're out of order!" Reminded by Ritz that he had the duty to maintain order as chairman, Roland retorted, "Well, you won't be much longer."

At the Commission's last meeting, Commissioner James Harvey became chairman-elect, helped along by votes from tax-rate opponents.

(See this week's print edition of the Flyer for more information on the tax-rate issue.)

Comments (21)

Showing 1-21 of 21

I assume Luttrell will ask for a rate decrease, once home prices rise.

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Posted by tomguleff on 07/22/2013 at 4:03 PM


You are dreaming, aren't you!

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/22/2013 at 4:46 PM

Actually if values rise the tax rate DOES have to be recertified. Which was the original point of the law. Force governments to be transparent when prices were rising.

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Posted by GSF on 07/22/2013 at 8:11 PM


So what? Let everyone see, however, it is my experience that politicians, both parties, always find a way to justify keeping the money once they have started to collect it.

In most cases, once the tax rate is raised, we are screwed!

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/22/2013 at 11:20 PM



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Posted by thecatsmeow on 07/23/2013 at 5:27 AM

Man, Colorado is looking better and better......maybe even British Columbia......

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Posted by lifespalette on 07/23/2013 at 7:06 AM

This year's reappraisal values, subject to appeals to the county Board of Equalization, will remain in effect until the next reappraisal in 2017. The increased rate will hit many businesses and some homeowners, but I don't think it ever got across to the public that, based on figures provided by the Assessor's Office, about two-thirds of homeowners will have tax cuts at the $4.38 rate. General county government will not get any increased funding from the new rate. There will be an increase in county funding for the newly structured school system but because of Memphis funding for the former city schools going way, the combined school system will receive less funding than the two separate systems received last year. jcov40

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Posted by jcov40 on 07/23/2013 at 11:13 AM

Well said jcov. Most of that has been said here and there (and here) over the last several months, but never so well bulleted and organized.

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Posted by Jackson Baker on 07/23/2013 at 1:53 PM

I just don't understand how Memphis and Shelby County have such exorbitant property tax rates? This area is not competitive with the rest of the state. The thirst for money by this government here is out of control. If you live in Memphis, you are paying about 35% in property tax than those that live in the incorporated areas of Nashville-Davidson. It is outrageous!

Here is the 2012 data from the state by county and city:…

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Posted by bjc123 on 07/23/2013 at 2:19 PM

bjc123, property is worth far more in metropolitan Davidson, so the lower tax rates perversely generate more revenue. However, cost of living is also much higher in Nashville, so when people mention higher salaries up there, they need to realize that everything costs more, from food to gasoline. That being said, one of the fundamental problems in Memphis is that the power structure here has always had the same mantra- separation of the races, low wages, no unions, no strikes, low taxes and bare-bones government. That of course changed to some extent once Democrats got into power, but the damage was largely already done. Memphis by then had extremely low wages, and schools were barely funded when compared to other communities. And once courts ordered massive integration and busing, the taxpayers had no desire to fund the public schools in Memphis. Memphis has probably been spending the bulk of its revenue on courts and law enforcement since the end of World War II.

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Posted by progressivememphis on 07/23/2013 at 4:46 PM

Wish the Memphis Flyer would post the top ten, or even 20, highest property tax rates by municipality in Tennessee. The list should a real eye-opener for anyone living in Shelby County! Bet you have at least six, if not seven, of the top slots locked up. Not something to be proud of, is it?

Until last night, the Shelby County base rate was within a few cents of Metro Davidson's base rate. A look at incorporated suburbs should be a shocker for Shelby County residents as well. They are way out of line and getting worse with the all the school issues.....

You folks better learn to live and work together real soon. All of Shelby County is imploding and you can't even see it...

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Posted by MidTn 37179 on 07/23/2013 at 6:07 PM

Here you go, let me google that for ya: I think we have six out of the top 10.…

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Posted by BruceVanWyngarden on 07/23/2013 at 8:52 PM

Bruce- I posted the 2012 info in my post above.

I lived in Williamson County and moved here for my job. Groceries, gas, wages were all the same there as they are in Shelby County. My house there, which is roughly the same value as it is here, has a property tax rate of $2.85, compared to the $5.54 I'm paying here. The schools in Williamson County were certainly better and the roads and general infrastructure were in great shape. I've written my County Commissioners, who are Conservative, to get an explanation for why the taxes are so high here and they couldn't give me an answer, other than it's the way it's always been.

If you don't think companies who are relocating look at tax rates, you are kidding yourself. This area is taxed the most and probably gets the least from it.

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Posted by bjc123 on 07/23/2013 at 9:27 PM

The top-20 property tax rates in Tennessee, based on 2012 info that I linked above. We don't need to be at the top of this list.

SHELBY MEMPHIS $4.02 $3.11 $7.13
SHELBY BARTLETT $4.06 $1.49 $5.55
SHELBY GERMANTOWN $4.06 $1.49 $5.55
SHELBY COLLIERVILLE $4.06 $1.43 $5.49
SHELBY MILLINGTON $4.06 $1.23 $5.29
SHELBY ARLINGTON $4.06 $1.15 $5.21
MADISON HUMBOLDT $2.15 $3.04 $5.19
HAMILTON CHATTANOOGA $2.77 $2.31 $5.07
MARSHALL CHAPEL HILL $3.22 $1.75 $4.97
CARROLL BRUCETON $1.65 $1.78 $1.53 $4.96
COFFEE MANCHESTER $2.66 $2.30 $4.96
MORGAN OAKDALE $3.10 $1.83 $4.93
DAVIDSON RIDGETOP $4.04 $0.87 $4.91
SHELBY LAKELAND $4.06 $0.85 $4.91
COFFEE TULLAHOMA $2.58 $2.29 $4.87
KNOX KNOXVILLE $2.36 $2.46 $4.82
FRANKLIN TULLAHOMA $2.45 $2.31 $4.76
LAUDERDALE HENNING $2.70 $2.04 $4.74
ANDERSON OAK RIDGE $2.35 $2.39 $4.74

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Posted by bjc123 on 07/23/2013 at 9:35 PM

Hey my grandfather used to say...."Ain't never met a politician who wouldn't pass a tax hike at the drop of a hat, it's easier than thinking." Then he would spit.

Truer words couldn't be spoken in reference to the "politicians" of Shelby County and Memphis".

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Posted by lifespalette on 07/24/2013 at 4:11 AM


Thanks!! Hope the new 2013 list is in Excel format.....


Quite the change living in Shelby County, isn't it? The differences in the daily news alone would spin heads over here in Williamson County, or for that matter, anywhere else. How about the work force attitude/ability across all parts of Shelby County? Wow!!

Tried to tell these guys about the Franklin SSD-9 "experiment", the know-it-alls wouldn't even listen. That "special district" comes with a price tag of $0.95 tax bite on the backs of those living in the frozen forever district. Ritz has it "pegged", but the closed minded refuse to deal with the truth. But, the CONsultant said it will work there. Yeah, right.....

And yes, "the way it has always been", is a wimpy excuse. The reason it "is" that way is nobody is proactive in Shelby County, only reactive. Building barriers instead of bridges has decimated the entire region. This scenario dates back to the late 60's when I was a kid in Shelby County and is relatively "unique" in Tennessee, thank goodness.

Nothing has changed in 40 years. No wonder, that the area that operates daily under this mantra is dying as prosperity spreads across the rest of Tennessee. What a sad waste of an area with unlimited potential and assets!

All of the effort/time/funds spent being separate has really paid off, hasn't it? Now, they wonder why they have a brain drain? Their own children can see it!!

Best wishes in your job there, it has to be tough. Maybe you can impart some wisdom.....

Hope you can return to sanity and serenity soon!

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Posted by MidTn 37179 on 07/24/2013 at 7:54 AM

It is a funny thing for the people that make the most in Shelby to crow about the high tax rates! You also rail and compare the cost of living between other cities and metro areas in Tennessee. The funny part about this is that no-one actually takes the time to put it in it's true prospective, not even Bruce.

When you do a comparison of the cost of living between other metropolitan areas of Tenneessee, it is awfully misleading. The difference between Nashville and Memphis is about 400 dollars annually. However, I know, because one of my daughters recently moved to Nashville. The price of gas and the use of gas is way higher in Nashville than Memphis. The base price of gas is higher and because of the terrain, very hilly, one use more gas in Nashville than in Memphis. Just that difference easily makes up for the few hundred dollars difference annually. The amount of rent is misleading. You actually pay more per square feet in Nashville than Memphis.

There are other factors that don't really show up by using aggregate numbers, but when you do it individually, Nashville is actually higher than Memphis.

Bruce is quite disingenuous to not delve down into those published figures to give the true picture. I thought that is what journalist are supposed to do.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/24/2013 at 9:01 AM

Hmmm...I just pulled up for both Memphis and Nashville and the prices are virtually the same. If the price of gas is "way higher" in Nashville, the numbers don't seem to indicate it.

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Posted by bjc123 on 07/24/2013 at 10:01 AM


When was the last time you were physically in Nashville and bought gas? Google the varying difference in miles per gallon a car gets when compared to a relative straight flat terrain and a semi-mountainous curvy terrain. Just like you say you googled the gas prices, I am sure you can find out the difference in gas mileage according to the type of terrain traversed.

Do that and let us know wht you come up with.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/24/2013 at 10:27 AM


You either lied or didn't read it right. Gas prices in Nashville are higher as listed by the same website,

I just looked it up and there is enough of a difference to make a difference in one's pocketbook.

Probably just a mistake on your part, well, at least I hope. (lol)

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/24/2013 at 10:37 AM


I checked and BJC123 seems to "ok" on his statement. Why are you quibbling over this ?

Really ?? 2 comments on +/- $.01 gallon either way. My friend, take some time off.

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Posted by tomguleff on 07/24/2013 at 1:54 PM
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