By Amos Maki
The Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis City Council will consider a funding request from Memphis City Schools, a reduction of Fire Department vehicles and library closings when its budget discussions resume today .
Mayor AC Wharton has requested a 47-cent increase in the property tax assessment to cover the cost of court-ordered funding for city schools.
The city government's financial woes date back to the council's decision to slash funding to the school district in 2008. That year, instead of approving former mayor Willie Herenton's proposed 58-cent tax hike, the council cut $57 million from its annual contribution to the school district , and gave residents an 18-cent tax break while increasing city spending by more than $40 million, including raises for employees.
Since that decision, the city has faced annual budget shortfalls. A $47 million deficit is projected this year.
Wharton has proposed closing up to seven libraries to help balance the city's books, following advice in a 2007 efficiency report prepared by Deloitte Consulting that said the move could save $1.7 million annually.
"If we don't get some reprogrammed revenue that absolutely is a possibility," said Chief Administrative Officer George Little.
The council also will discuss a Memphis Fire Department proposal to reduce the number of vehicles in service. Fire Director Alvin Benson has proposed that the department take four ladder trucks and a rescue vehicle out of service.
Fire union officials have said a job attrition strategy approved last year and the proposed reduction of vehicles would jeopardize public safety, but department officials say coverage would be sufficient with the reduced equipment and number of employees.
In budget revisions sent to council members Monday, the Wharton administration announced increased funding levels for some agencies.
Wharton, who said economic development was a priority when he took office in 2009, now is proposing to give $2 million to $2.5 million to the city and county Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE. Wharton's original budget proposal did not include money for EDGE. Shelby County plans to invest $7.5 million in the agency .
Wharton is also proposing maintenance increases of $250,000 at the Memphis Zoo, $280,000 at the Mallory Neely house and $500,000 at The Children's Museum of Memphis. He also added $500,000 to the budget request for the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County, which combines civil, criminal, health and social services for victims of domestic violence.
"These are things council members have asked about specifically, and we're trying to account for those requests," Little said.
Copyright 2012 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.