VOL. 128 | NO. 108 | Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Commission Approves Budget and 1st Reading of Tax Rate
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners approved an operating budget for Shelby County government Monday and approved on the first of three reading a $4.38 property tax rate to fund that budget.
The votes that signal the end of the county’s budget season came after a prolonged commission debate about the basic role of county government.
Most amendments to the budget from the group of four Republican commissioners who have been the most vocal opponents of county spending and the tax hike failed.
The amendments defeated included deleting: $57.6 million from the budget – the amount of money involved if the tax rate remained at $4.02; $9.6 million which is the amount of funding the six-cent tax hike would create for schools; $635,000 which is all of the money the county gives in grants to nonprofit and private groups; and $7,500 which is the amount the commission spends on bringing in food for commissioners during the Monday meetings twice a month.
The commission approved one budget amendment that eliminates $300,000 in county funding for Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court. The funding is part of a settlement among the county administration, the court and the U.S. Department of Justice over due process conditions in the court and would pay for monitors and consultants to the court.
As a majority of votes on the 13-member body lined up for the move by commissioner Henri Brooks some “no” votes switched. Such switches are an indication that those switching will try to move for reconsideration of the decision at the next commission meeting.
The vote on the new tax rate was 8-5 in favor.
Commissioner Terry Roland indicated he will challenge the “yes” vote of commissioner Melvin Burgess who works for the consolidated school system. Roland is seeking an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office on whether Burgess’s vote is a conflict of interest.
Burgess stated his employment by the school system as he voted on each budget motion Monday on advice from the county attorney’s office. Roland is disputing that legal opinion with his request to the state through two Shelby County legislators.
Even if Roland’s challenge of Burgess’s vote was successful, the new tax rate still had the seven votes necessary to pass.
The new proposed tax rate is a 36-cent increase from the existing $4.02 rate. Thirty cents of that is the amount in the recertified tax rate to make up for losses in property values in the 2013 property reappraisal. The six cents on the rate beyond that is a tax increase to fund the consolidated school system.
In other action, the commission approved $5.9 million in state transportation grant money to go toward the $9 million replacement of the Raleigh-Millington Road Bridge over the Loosahatchie River in North Shelby County. The contract with Ford Construction Co. includes $2.9 million in city of Memphis funding the Memphis City Council votes on Tuesday as well as $559,929 in county capital funding.
The commission also approved second reading of a set of three ordinances that would delay the start date of new seismic requirements for residential and existing buildings form July 1 to the end of 2013.
Several members of the West Tennessee Structural Engineers group spoke against a delay while Greater Memphis Chamber leaders urged the commission to approve the later effective date because of its expected impact on construction projects.
And the commission approved new memorandums of understanding with the cities of Millington and Arlington for Shelby County to provide emergency dispatching services for them.
Also approved was the transfer of nearly 10 acres of land in Cordova on the west side of Herbert Road at Fischer Steel Road to Gameday Health Kids Foundation as the location of “Penny’s Fast Break Courts Sports Facility” – the children’s basketball site named for NBA and University of Memphis basketball star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.