Shelby County Commissioners at a March meeting. (© Karen Pulfer Focht)
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris got little time to celebrate his victory in Tuesday’s Democratic mayoral primary, getting pushback from county commissioners about a change in the county’s tax rate on Wednesday as he announced his proposed budget for FY 2023.
During a Shelby County commission meeting, Harris proposed a budget of $1.6 billion with a focus on raising hourly wages for city employees, funding early childhood education and Shelby County Public Schools.
Harris also discussed lowering the county’s tax rate from $3.45 to $3.399, a decrease of five cents.
“For the fourth year in a row, no one in Shelby County will see a property tax rate increase,” said Harris. “I’m one of the few mayors that can say that.”
Commissioners questioned the proposal since the Shelby County Trustee’s office system can only support a tax rate that goes out to two decimal places, which may lead to the rate being set at $3.39 or $3.40. If the measure passes, the county is set to lose over $2 million in revenue.
Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. noted the county faced scrutiny last year for its property tax rate, which was set at $3.45 despite the state’s tax rate being set at $3.99.
“We’re not allowed to make money off the taxpayer. We gotta give it back, let that be on the record,” said Ford.
Commissioner Mark Billingsley amended the tax rate ordinance to set the rate at $3.39. It passed on first reading, although commissioners plan to revisit the issue next week.
Harris’ proposed budget seeks to provide a $8.5 million increase for early education,a $1 million increase for overall funding of public schools, $28 million for school construction and a 1% pay increase for county employees, raising the hourly wages to $15.44 an hour.
Harris also proposed setting aside $2.4 million to provide tax relief for low-income families. Last year, the county allocated $2 million to provide tax relief for 8,700 families.
“For some families, we will pay their entire tax bill,” he said.
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