Head Start Funding Deadline Looms for County

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioners will probably talk again Monday, Oct. 14, about who should apply for $23 million in federal funding for the Head Start program.

Last month the commission approved a resolution urging Shelby County Schools to apply for the early childhood development program now administered by Shelby County government.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has said his staff is preparing an application but would prefer that some other entity, preferably Shelby County Schools, apply for the program instead with county government’s blessing and expand the early childhood program’s reach.

Shelby County Commissioners are likely to talk Monday about whether the Shelby County Schools system will seek the $23 million federal contract to run Head Start services now administered by Shelby County government. Oct. 22 is the deadline for the application.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

Although it is not on the agenda, commissioner Steve Mulroy may introduce a resolution urging Luttrell to apply for county government again depending on what Mulroy hears about efforts by the school system.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 22 and the school system is still mulling its options. Monday’s commission meeting is the last of the body before the deadline.

Commissioner Henri Brooks tried to rule Mulroy out of order last week in committee sessions for even raising the question publicly.

“I had explained to you that I had conferred with chairman (James) Harvey and that it was not to come before us,” Brooks told Mulroy. “You are out of order.”

The commission votes Monday on a resolution that would convert long-term temporary county government employees working more than 30 hours a week to permanent positions to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

The act, also known as Obamacare, requires that employers provide health insurance coverage to employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

The Luttrell administration directed county departments to review their temporary positions and cut temporary employees to below 30 hours wherever possible and to seek a “permanent” position for those jobs requiring more than 30 hours a week.

The result is a set of 17 permanent positions in the resolution the commission considers Monday. Six are in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court with five in the county’s Corrections Division, three in county Public Works, two in the Trustee’s office and one in the public defender’s office.

The 17 new full-time positions would also mean a reduction of 39 temporary positions. Because the 17 full-time positions were once temporary positions, those positions are included among the temporary positions cut for a net reduction of 22 positions overall.

A dozen of the full-time positions would be funded through the county’s general fund budget. The remaining five would be funded through enterprise funds – money a particular division makes through fees or revenue other than general fund revenue.

The net impact across all of the budgets involved would be a savings of $145,638.

In each of the five offices or divisions affected as well as the county general fund and the enterprise fund, the reductions in temporary labor costs are more than the increase in cost for health insurance as well as county retirement and other post employment benefits.

Also on Monday’s agenda is the second of three readings of an ordinance Harvey proposed that would regulate used tire businesses and those hauling used tires in the unincorporated county.

Commissioners question the need for the ordinance because there are no such businesses in the unincorporated county. They also raised questions last month about whether the ordinance would cover someone taking the tires from one city to another within Shelby County if their route takes them into unincorporated Shelby County.

They are awaiting a written legal opinion from assistant county attorney Carter Gray. Gray said a sheriff’s deputy could conceivably pull over someone hauling used tires in one of the county’s seven cities and issue a citation if the person doesn’t have the necessary county permit under the proposed ordinance which comes with a $250 fee.

“I thought this ordinance was to get to the point of where they are dumping them,” said commissioner Terry Roland. “Not where they are originating. It doesn’t make sense.”

Harvey said that wasn’t his intent either.

“It is ground work. It is not the only effectiveness that we can deploy,” he said. “It institutes in the minds of the community that dumping is no longer allowable.”