VOL. 129 | NO. 74 | Wednesday, April 16, 2014
County Commission Ready for Budget Analysis
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners begin their detailed look at the county’s consolidated budget proposal Wednesday, April 16, for the coming fiscal year.
The budget committee, chaired by commissioner Heidi Shafer, begins its hearings with a look at the budgets for the offices of Sheriff, Trustee, Register and the Juvenile Court and its Clerk’s office.
Meanwhile, county Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy told commissioners Monday that they should have the Shelby County Schools $52.6 million capital funding request formally before it at committee sessions in a week with a vote possible at the commission’s April 28 meeting.
The school system is requesting approval of the funding for school renovations and construction before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year specifically to avoid a required split of such funding in the future based on the average daily attendance of each of the county’s seven public school systems.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has said he believes capital funding needs of the suburban school systems should be included on the list, which would draw on capital funds set aside by county government to the tune of $55 million in the current fiscal year. Those funds have not been spent during the schools merger process and are extra funding above and beyond whatever total county capital budget the commission might approve for the new fiscal year.
The list approved by the Shelby County Schools board includes a new roof for Millington Central High School in the Millington Schools system.
Kennedy outlined the timing for commission consideration of the list at the end of a commission meeting Monday that featured a heated debate on a $1.7 million roofing contract for a county government building at 1075 Mullins Station Road in Shelby Farms Park.
The commission ultimately sent the contract with B Four Plied Inc. back to committee for more discussion after commissioners Walter Bailey and Henri Brooks voiced concern that the Memphis company’s minority employees were all Hispanic and none of them were African-American.
“I’m perplexed,” Bailey said initially. Later in the discussion he termed the lack of any black employees “reprehensible.”
Commission Chairman James Harvey called it an “ugly revelation,” saying the roofing jobs are jobs “we used to enjoy earning an income from.”
“Black people and white people unfortunately want the office jobs … out of the sun,” Harvey added. “There’s somebody out there that wants to work.”
That prompted Bailey to disagree and Harvey to say that he wasn’t suggesting black people don’t want to be in the sun or don’t want to work.
Commissioner Terry Roland questioned how much the commission or county government in general can specify minority hiring goals without running afoul of the law.
“I think it’s kind of a far reach … to get into telling businesses what minorities they can and cannot hire,” he said. “I think that would be kind of against the law. A minority is a minority.”
“Minorities are not just minorities,” Brooks replied, citing 11 different classifications of minority groups in federal law. “The point is we have a population that is predominantly black here. … We need a level playing field here.”
She also said with local unemployment among black citizens higher than the overall rate and the rate for whites, there is a need to watch closely who gets county government contracts.
“I am looking out for people who look like me,” she said. “I sure am. That is an absolute fact. … If you look like me – underemployed, unemployed, last hired, first fired. It’s ridiculous and it continues and the beat goes on.”
In other action, the commission approved a $1 million contract with Sierra Systems Inc. for system integration services linking the offices of the Criminal Court Clerk, General Sessions Court Clerk, Sheriff, Corrections Division, Pretrial Services and District Attorney General in an “integrated criminal justice system.”
The commission also approved a $540,000 contract with Alliance Healthcare Services Inc. for jail diversion services for those arrested who have a serious mental illness. The contract is part of the Jericho Project.