Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Herenton Presents Budget to Packed Council Chambers

No tax increases, no layoffs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 6:11 PM

As expected, Mayor Willie Herenton presented the City Council Tuesday with a no-tax-increase budget, but he got some sharp questioning about school funding that sets the stage for future battles.

City Councilman Jim Strickland got Herenton to admit that the budget he presented is based on the same tax rate as last year, when the council cut the contribution to schools by $56 million. If a court orders the city to put that back, the council, not the mayor, will be on the hot seat.

"Then that's your challenge, not mine," Herenton said. The City Council chambers was full, with many teachers wearing red shirts in solidarity.

Herenton said he managed to present a budget with an $89 million surplus and three-percent raises for employees -- none of whom will be laid off -- because "we just leaned on the division directors" to make cuts.

The only specific cuts he mentioned were in library hours, parks, community centers, and golf courses. He said the city got some federal grant funds to hire extra police officers, but he did not indicate whether stimulus funds are a key part of the budget.

He said a buyout plan for city employees will not be offered again this fiscal year. The proposed operating budget is $617 million. The mayor said local sales tax collections are down 3 percent and state collections are down 6 percent.

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