VOL. 126 | NO. 110 | Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Commission Delays Final County Budget Vote
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners cut several million dollars across county government Monday June 6 with a resolution suggesting all county employees making over $100,000 a year take a 10 percent pay cut. They also slashed $300,000 from the county’s office of early childhood and youth and moved $250,000 in funding for a sickle cell clinic from the general fund to the fund balance.
But with the Democratic majority missing three key votes and some Republican commissioners using the advantage to move for more cuts, the commission delayed a vote approving a county budget for the new fiscal year for two more weeks.
The votes in the Monday, June 6 commission session didn’t fall along party lines. There were party members of both sides who voted for proposals by the other side.
But commission chairman Sidney Chism hit the escape button when there were enough votes on the commission to strip $300,000 in county funding from the only county library which is run as part of the Memphis library system. Chism voted for the cut, but said later he did so to move for reconsideration in two weeks.
Commissioner Steve Mulroy was absent. Commissioners Melvin Burgess and James Harvey were present early in the commission’s six hour session but left later as the number of amendments grew.
Harvey left after Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a woman whose screams outside the commission chamber caused the meeting to recess for several minutes. The woman claimed Harvey had cheated her in a real estate deal. Harvey denied any wrongdoing.
Some of the budget amendments will likely stand. But Chism said he will move for reconsideration of the cut in library funding.
The Monday meeting was the first indication of whether any budget proposal had the necessary seven votes to pass.
The commission voted down proposals to eliminate the commission’s entire $25,000 food budget for lunches and a move by commissioner Walter Bailey to restore the two percent pay raise for county employees that was cancelled by the Luttrell administration.
The commission’s budget committee last week recommended a plan by the Luttrell administration that got the gap between revenues and expenditures down to $67,028. But the plan won committee recommendation with four votes. The administration would make up the remaining amount with adjustments to a personnel restriction covering lapse time.
In two weeks, commissioners are likely to continue with a series of amendments that will likely shift some funding around within the general parameters of the administration’s budget blueprint. That blueprint includes increasing the personnel restriction and contracting with a private company to combine some food operations at the Shelby County Jail and the County Corrections Center.
In a separate vote, the commission approved the creation of a fourth county retirement plan for employees hired on or after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The resolution also changed two of the three existing county retirement plans to up contributions by employees. The new plan and the modifications represent $900,000 in savings in the administration’s still tentative budget plan.