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VOL. 128 | NO. 129 | Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wharton Calls for 'Revenue Director'

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. wants to hire a city “revenue officer” as a next step in efforts to change financial practices at City Hall.

Wharton also set a schedule of monthly goals through the end of 2013 to discuss with the council such major financial issues as pension plan obligations and employee benefits.

He briefed council members on the long term financial issues during the Tuesday, July 2, council executive session.

Wharton described the revenue officer as “someone whose sole responsibility is to wake up every day and make sure we collect every parking ticket,” and collect other revenue due the city.

The council will vote, possibly at its July 16 meeting on establishing the position and whoever Wharton appointed would be confirmed by the council. Wharton did not say how much the person holding the position might be paid or what kind of staff they would have. But he said he wanted to have someone in the position by August 1.

“We need to get this done like right now because what we are looking at in the coming budget – we need to get every dollar that’s collectible,” he added. “We’ve retained one attorney and in six months time he brought in $240,000. … That’s just one lawyer working on it. Could you imagine if we had a full revenue office working on it.”

Wharton also talked of a possible conversion of city employees from a defined benefits plan to a defined contribution plan. But he added the administration will come to the council with a variety of options between those two choices.

“The next step is to come back with a range of options,” added city Chief Administrative Officer George Little. “We will have all inbetween and costs and how to finance. It could be a hybrid. It could be changing our benefit mix.”

The schedule Wharton set for the major initiatives begins in August with a solid waste management proposal that could involve converting to a quarterly pick up schedule with sites citizens would take certain kinds of trash to.

Pension findings are next in September followed in October by health care benefits.

City finance director Brian Collins also said the state’s interest in the city’s pension obligations is a pattern of inquiries by the state Comptroller’s office involving a dozen other local governments.

“I think they are just aggregating data,” Collins told council members. “There were no findings expected. It was a fact gathering exercise as far as we know at this point.”

Meanwhile, the council is still tying up some loose ends from its approval of an operating budget, a capital budget and a $3.40 property tax rate just before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

One of the loose ends is $250,000 the council voted to cut from the city’s share of funding for the Economic Development Growth Engine – or EDGE. The cut was approved as an amendment to a larger plan that failed last week. But most council members thought it had passed. The council could reopen the issue at its July 16 meeting with a separate resolution on the funding cut.

Council chairman Edmund Ford tried to reconsider the capital budget Tuesday to add $1.5 million in city funding toward a renovation of the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven. The bid for additional funding by council member Janis Fullilove was voted down last week.

Although Ford voted on the prevailing side and could move for reconsideration, the council approved the part of the minutes of the meeting that includes the capital budget the same night it voted on the matter. So, the budget approval was final and could not be reconsidered.

In other action, the council approved a planned development mixed retail center on the southeast corner of College Road and McLemore Street in Soulsville. It also approved a planned development car lot at Germantown Parkway and Market Plaza Drive in Cordova.

Council member Lee Harris dropped final reading of his ordinance to exempt Memphis vehicle owners from auto inspections. Harris dropped the proposal following last week’s closure of the inspection stations and word that Shelby County Clerk Wayne Mashburn will renew car tags without requiring the inspection.

Harris’s proposal for $115,000 in funding for a dog park in Greenbelt Park on Mud Island was tabled meaning the council cannot act on it unless there are seven votes to take it off the table.

The council approved the second of three readings of an ordinance to change provisions for repeated false home and business alarms. The changes include the option of putting repeat offenders on a “do not respond” list used by dispatchers.

Third and final reading of council member Kemp Conrad’s ordinance to prohibit pension “double dipping” by city employees who retire and come back to work for the city or other local governmental institutions was delayed for two weeks.

The council also approved two five-year Memphis Light Gas and Water Division contracts with Texas Gas Transmission LLC totaling $69.9 million for the use of pipelines to transport gas.

PROPERTY SALES 83 405 4,276
MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149