Talk of consolidating Memphis and Shelby County gov'ts re-surfac - - Columbia, South Carolina

Talk of consolidating Memphis and Shelby County gov'ts re-surfaces

(WMC-TV) - With a combined debt of $1.5 billion between the City of Memphis and Shelby County, talk of consolidating the two governments is resurfacing.

Some say taxpayers would achieve massive savings if the governments are combined. But others are not too keen on the idea.

Many believed government consolidation was impossible because they never believed the schools would merge. With the quasi school merger and mounting debt, the idea is taking root again.

"Before I even make a decision, I want to know how it's going to affect my property taxes and how it's going to affect my home and the value of my property," said Tim McKinley.

Shelby County property owners want an analysis of the impact of consolidation.

"Cities and counties are strapped with money so you've got to be innovative," said Shelby County Commissioner Melvin Burgess.

Lawmakers have mixed reaction to government consolidation, post the schools merger.

"With both the school systems as one, I thing we can start to look at shared services," continued Burgess.

"Since the schools have separated now and you have municipal schools and you have a unified school system, I don't know that you are any closer to consolidation in the county," said Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

"In the long term, we must consolidate," said Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery. "That's the only way for everyone in Shelby County to save money."

Councilman Lowery says decreasing state and federal resources make consolidation inevitable.

"We do not need two legislative bodies: City Council and County Commission," added Lowery. "We could all save money by joining forces and combining everything that we do."

Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker prefers combining resources over full consolidation, as unincorporated areas are annexed and county responsibilities shrink.

"I think there would be some future conversations about consolidating core services. Maybe police and fire and so forth," said Bunker.

Commissioner Melvin Burgess says it will take a forensic approach.

"We've got I.T., we've got H.R., we've got two purchasing. We've got two of everything. There comes a point in time we've got to sit down with all of our officials and our department heads and see how we can work together to come up under one common cause and save taxpayer's money," explained Burgess.

No official action is on Memphis or Shelby County's agendas to pursue the idea again.

Lawmakers call this the "courting stage."

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