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VOL. 128 | NO. 137 | Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Council Eyes September Special Election

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members continue a shift away from budget season Tuesday, July 16, with an agenda that includes allocating some money from the last fiscal year and other money for the new fiscal year.

They will also consider several ballot items that could create a special election ballot for Memphis voters at the end of September, in what would otherwise be an off-election year for the city.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Memphis City Council members just passed votes on a budget and tax rate, and two weeks into the new fiscal year still have more decisions to make about the city’s long-term financial outlook.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Follow the meeting with live tweets at twitter.com/tdnpols.

The council votes on third and final reading of a citywide referendum that would change the city’s civil service system.

If approved the item would go to city voters in a special election on Sept. 30.

On the agenda again after numerous delays is final reading of the referendum ordinance that would put a half percent city sales tax hike to Memphis voters in the fall as well, possibly on the same special election ballot with the civil service ballot question.

A companion resolution is also off delay for Tuesday’s meeting. It would specify $27 million of the estimated $47 million in revenue from the sales tax hike would be used for an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs in Memphis. The other $20 million would be used to roll back the city property tax rate.

The 5-cent city property tax hike the council enacted last month has complicated the plan.

Some council members have said they believe Memphis voters are much less likely to approve a sales tax hike after a property tax hike even if it means shifting some of the revenue burden to the sales tax and off the property tax rate.

The pre-kindergarten expansion would be outside the countywide school system through some kind of contract between the city and a provider. That provider could be the consolidated school system.

Meanwhile, interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has called for a re-examination of pre-kindergarten capacity and locations because of some pre-K classes at some schools that are under capacity.

Up for third and final reading Tuesday is an ordinance to end city pension “double dipping” by stopping pension payments when a retired city employee comes back to work for the city or begins work for other local government-related entities.

Also on the council agenda is a transfer of $250,000 for traffic signal improvements at Pleasant View Road and Covington Pike in Raleigh.

Another resolution lines up $300,000 in funding for construction engineering and inspection work on the University of Memphis crosswalk project on Central Avenue. That and the construction work are funded with state transportation grant money and funding from the Tennessee Board of Regents in an 80-20 split.

Council members will also review plans at a 10:30 a.m. committee session for Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration to lease and enter into a contract with a company that will provide the city with updated parking meters. The meters will take credit cards as well as coins. For sets of metered on-street parking spaces Downtown and in the Medical Center there would be a single kiosk to pay.

The five-year lease agreement for the new parking meter equipment comes at a cost of $27,800 a month. And the administration estimated the city will pay that with the increased revenues it takes in from the parking meters. At the end of the five years, the city would own the equipment.

The proposal by the Italian-American organization UNICO to move the statue of Christopher Columbus from a Downtown park to Marquette Park in East Memphis will be discussed at an 11:30 a.m. committee session.

UNICO members have offered to pay the cost of moving the statue to the park that is the site of the annual Memphis Italian Festival.

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