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VOL. 128 | NO. 118 | Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Schools Payroll Changed Back As Commission Okays Schools Budget

By Bill Dries

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A week after announcing a change in when Shelby County Schools teachers get paid in the schools merger that begins July 1, interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson changed course. The change keeps teachers from the two systems on different pay schedules for the first year of the merger.

The decision Monday, June 17, means the different pay schedules for the two school systems will be reconciled at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

“At that time, all employees will be placed on a 26-week pay period schedule,” Hopson wrote in a letter to employees Monday. “This remedy is only available to and necessary for legacy SCS teachers and legacy SCS 10-month salaried employees. These are the only employees who would have missed an entire paycheck due to the harmonization process.”

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Commission approved the consolidated school system’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 after a protracted debate. The second half of the debate include complaints from commission critics of the schools merger that no one from the school system was present for the vote.

A motion by commissioner Wyatt Bunker to delay a vote on the budget, including $20 million in extra county funding for the school system, until the July 8 commission meeting was defeated.

County Attorney Kelly Rayne told commissioners that the commission had to approve a schools budget by the start of the new fiscal year or risk losing a larger amount of state funding by Oct. 1. She also said the school system could not have operated on a continuation budget after July 1 because the continuation budget might have been that of the smaller Shelby County Schools system instead of the Memphis City Schools.

MCS goes out of existence on July 1.

The schools budget was approved on 7-3 vote and Hopson showed up after the vote apologizing for the school system’s absence. Hopson cited a court deposition as well as working out the details of the new payroll plan for the merged school system.

Several on the commission cited the earlier payroll scenario in the second lengthy debate of the commission’s day on setting a county property tax rate.

The tax rate ordinance, up for the second of three readings, failed by one vote to get the seven-vote majority necessary to pass. The tax rate being proposed includes 30 cents more to generate the same amount of revenue for county government as the current $4.02 rate to make up for property value lost in the 2013 property reappraisal. It also includes a six-cent tax hike to generate half of the extra $20 million in funding the county would provide the school system for a total proposed county property tax rate of $4.38. The rate would remain four cents higher in the county outside the city of Memphis to pay off rural school bonds for the construction of Arlington High School.

The critical vote on the tax rate was commissioner Sidney Chism who abstained.

The measure still advances to third reading at the commission’s July 8 meeting.

The commission also approved a set of three ordinances on third and final reading Monday that push back the effective date for new seismic measures for new home construction and renovations of existing buildings until the end of 2013.

Developers and homebuilders called for the delay as they work to amend the code by the end of the year. They are concerned the new standards could drive up costs and dampen a recovering environment for home construction in particular.

Members of the West Tennessee Structural Engineers Association opposed a delay saying the county codes should reflect the city’s location near the New Madrid earthquake fault and the earthquake risk. They also questioned whether the new standards would drive up construction costs.

The commission also delayed action on the appointment of Julie Furr to the Memphis and Shelby County Building Code Board for three week. Furr, project manager at Chad Stewart and Associates Inc. of Millington, was among the structural engineers who spoke against a delay of the new seismic code at the June 3 commission meeting.

Meanwhile, the commission approved the appointment by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell of Cassandra Bell Warren as the newest member of the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board.

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