City Council Says No to Property Tax Increase

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After meeting for six hours, the Memphis City Council on Tuesday voted 8-4 against a motion to raise property taxes by 18 cents for city residents.

Shortly after that, the council voted to adjourn until June 21st with a possible special meeting on June 23rd if needed. The council failed to approve a budget Tuesday but some members believe that major city unions are close to making concessions if given more time. The adjournment motion was 11-1, with only Myron Lowery voting no.

The property tax vote came on a motion by Councilman Harold Collins. Mayor A C Wharton had thrown his support to the tax increase earlier on Tuesday but the only "aye" votes were Collins, Lowery, Janis Fullilove, and Joe Brown.

The council spent most of the meeting on relatively small items as hundreds of members of the AFSCME union, firemen, and police watched from a packed auditorium.

The council deadlocked 6-6 on motions to drastically cut its own budget for catering, professional photographer services, and travel. That means the motions failed.

The council voted to cut $19.9 million from Wharton's proposed budget for privatization of parking meters. That threw the budget out of balance, and the failure of the 18-cent property tax increase left it out of balance until the next meeting.

On Wednesday, Wharton sent out an email urging support for the property tax increase:

"In 2008, the City Council voted to decrease funding to our schools, which resulted in an 18-cent property tax decrease. During yesterday's negotiations, I supported a motion that would have restored this property tax rate, prompted by the court's ruling that we must meet our funding obligation to our public schools. My hope is that we can find a way to fully meet this obligation while preventing widespread layoffs and service reductions that harm our quality of life. The budget proposals I have offered are balanced, fund our schools, and lay the groundwork for more sustainable reforms in the future. There is no question that everyone will need to share the sacrifice next year. It is my sincere hope that the Council will keep this in mind when they meet again on June 21."

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