VOL. 129 | NO. 93 | Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Jones, Reaves Look to Commission Terms
By Bill Dries
For David Reaves and Eddie Jones, the 2014 election year is over.
They were among the five Shelby County Commissioners who were effectively elected in the May 6 primaries because they face no opposition from the other party or independent contenders on the Aug. 7 ballot.
Reaves, a Republican representing the Bartlett-Lakeland District 3, and Jones, a Democrat representing the Hickory Hill/Parkway Village/Whitehaven District 11, begin their terms Sept. 1, and each has ideas about their priorities.
“We want a low tax rate and we want quality education. The reality is the tax rate is being driven by the poverty level in Shelby County due to the cost of services,” Reaves said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind the Headlines.” “So, the big goal that I have … is to work to put in a strategic plan to lower the poverty rate in Shelby County. That should drop the tax rate down.”
Jones, who also appeared on “Behind the Headlines,” said he wants to see a registry of foreclosed properties that will get them back on the tax rolls as quickly as possible.
“One of the things I see to be one of the biggest problems is fixing our tax base,” he said. “I think banks are a part of that problem. … They are foreclosing on properties and leaving it in the foreclosed person’s name. That property stays out there for four years … with no taxes being collected.”
The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Reaves comes to the County Commission from the Shelby County Schools board. The commission race was his third election in four years. He was elected to the legacy Shelby County Schools board in 2010, before it merged with the Memphis City Schools board and became a 23-member body. Two years later, he was elected to the school board when it restructured to seven members.
Some larger, historic changes in public education weren’t on the horizon when Reaves took his first oath of office on the board that governed public schools outside Memphis city limits.
“I was blessed. At the time I didn’t see it that way because we were going through such a tumultuous time,” Reaves said of the experience. “It didn’t have to be Republican or Democrat. It was suburban versus urban. … It really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues that are facing Shelby County in its totality.”
Jones is a Memphis code enforcement officer who previously ran for state representative.
He’s also been a PTA council president, chairman of the school-districtwide parent assembly and member of the advisory council for the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative.
“Are we where we need to be? I think we are getting there,” Jones said of the education goals that come with the changes. “In the midst of this merger-demerger and everything that’s going on with the school system, no. Commissioners are responsible for educating all children in Shelby County. … We’re responsible for all of them.”
Reaves agrees on the mixed results so far as he and Jones prepare to take a seat and have a vote on the body that is the sole source of local funding for Shelby County Schools and one of two local funding sources for the six suburban school systems.
“I’m not necessarily happy with the current results, but we are getting there,” Reaves said.
Both Jones and Reaves view payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentives as necessary for economic development, but with some changes to the process.
“I don’t think you should give companies coming in a lifetime pass,” Jones said. “I’m not sure where that needs to be and how many years. ... We’re going to have to improve on that … But you are still going to have to give them some kind of incentive.”
Reaves said the incentives are necessary to remain competitive but could be replaced by better-funded efforts that go toward specific workforce training for existing jobs.
“Whether we like it or not, PILOTs are an industry trend across the country. … We can’t compete with companies that move to DeSoto County if we do not have a way of attracting and retaining business,” he added. “My issue with PILOTs are, are we collecting the money, and we should not eliminate the education portion of that.”
Reaves is referring to the share of the tax abatement that includes the portion of the property tax rate that goes to fund local public education. Currently companies receiving PILOTs have that portion of the property tax rate abated as well. Some PILOTs used in other cities include a requirement that companies receiving the incentive must continue to pay that portion of the property tax rate.