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VOL. 129 | NO. 72 | Monday, April 14, 2014

Commission Budget Season Begins Quietly

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners began their budget season quietly with a first look in committee sessions last week at a $1.2 billion consolidated county budget proposal by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The Shelby County Commission began budget season last week with a first look at Mayor Mark Luttrell's $1.2 billion consolidated county budget proposal.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The proposal includes a 1-cent reduction in the county property tax rate the year after the commission voted to raise the rate as it also adjusted the rate to compensate for a historic property reappraisal in which property values declined.

Luttrell is proposing doing away with the 4-cent higher property tax rate in the county outside Memphis that had been paying off rural school bonds used to build Arlington High School.

When the commission meets Monday, April 14, there won’t be many ripples from the first look at the budget plan.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Follow the meeting on Twitter at @tdnpols.

Still to come in budget discussions is what Luttrell has said is the “challenge” of funding for Shelby County Schools and the six suburban school systems that open in August.

Shelby County Schools officials are seeking $52.6 million in capital funding before the July 1 start of the fiscal year to avoid splitting the funding with the suburban school districts based on average daily attendance.

Luttrell is urging the commission to resist setting any long-term direction on schools funding in what will be the second of a three-year period in which state education officials reset what the county’s minimum share of schools funding should be, known in state law as the “maintenance of effort.”

“I think that we collectively should take full advantage of that three-year period,” Luttrell said as he referred to county government’s lack of line-item control over the schools budget “You all and us are all restricted as to how much we can really impact the schools budget. But during this three-year reset, it provides us a rare opportunity to really get into the details of the school budget as we reset this baseline.”

Shelby County Schools leaders appeared before the commission’s budget committee just before Luttrell to begin making their case for schools funding that will be reduced to some degree by the demerger.

Meanwhile, county Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy told commissioners about $10.5 million in debt remains on Arlington High School and if the 4-cent addition on the property tax rate outside Memphis is done away with, the debt will be paid with sales tax revenue generated in the unincorporated areas of Shelby County.

“During this three-year reset, it provides us a rare opportunity to really get into the details of the school budget as we reset this baseline.”

–Mark Luttrell
Shelby County mayor

“I think it was a wonderful solution back when Arlington High School was built,” Kennedy said of the dual tax rate. “But when the merger of the two school systems and then the demerger happened, it certainly doesn’t make sense to have a wide group of people paying for it. … We’ve gotten legal opinions to make sure that we are solid in providing that. We simply will not need the additional property tax revenue from those 4 cents.”

Luttrell is also proposing eliminating county government grants to nonprofit organizations in the new fiscal year.

Kennedy said instead the administration is proposing contracts with the Exchange Club, Community Alliance for the Homeless Inc. and several other organizations “for what we consider to be county services.”

“The rest of the grants that we’ve been providing, we are not including in our budget. We are not recommending the continuation of grants to nonprofits other than those that are providing county services.”

On the commission’s agenda Monday is a $1 million contract with Sierra Systems Inc. of El Segundo, Calif., to integrate computer and information technology among the offices of the Criminal Court clerk, General Sessions Court clerk, sheriff, district attorney general, pretrial services and the county Corrections Division for an “Integrated Criminal Justice System.”

The contract runs through June 2015.

Also on the agenda is a $1.7 million contract with B Four Plied Inc. of Memphis for a new roof at a county government building at 1075 Mullins Station Road.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 78 260 13,157
MORTGAGES 103 370 17,128
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 26 62 3,362
BUILDING PERMITS 0 366 30,930
BANKRUPTCIES 74 209 12,552
BUSINESS LICENSES 22 65 4,554
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 88 416 19,309
MARRIAGE LICENSES 27 94 4,003

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