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VOL. 129 | NO. 27 | Monday, February 10, 2014

School Board Pay Raise Returns to Commission

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners vote Monday, Feb. 10, on a $20,800 pay raise for Shelby County School board members.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building.

Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

The pay raise ordinance, proposed by Commissioner Mike Ritz, is up for the second of three readings. And the measure has to have a two-thirds, nine-vote majority to be approved. The measure failed on first reading in January.

Shelby County Schools board members currently make $4,200 a year.


In committee sessions last week, Commissioner Sidney Chism proposed raising school board pay to $15,000, with an extra $1,000 for the school board chairman. That was amended to $14,000, the annual pay of Metro Nashville school board members.

The amendment was voted down.

Chism said later he probably will try to amend the ordinance again.

“I don’t think we are ever going to get nine votes for the $25,000,” he said. “I think it’s possible we get nine votes for a lower amount. It might go a little lower than I suggested in the meeting.”

And some commissioners who have been vocal opponents of the raise indicated in committee sessions last week that they might be willing to support a much lower amount.

But others said any kind of raise sends the wrong message to taxpayers and that school board members have not actively sought the pay raise.

“We can’t deny they need a raise. … They need to have a raise,” Chism said. “But what it’s going to be, I don’t know.”

Commissioner Walter Bailey called the board’s current pay “blasphemy.”

“I get the feeling that when it comes down to the new school system, that there’s a lot of ‘anti’ undercurrent feelings against it,” he added. “And there is a tendency to want to treat it like it’s a stepchild. … I hope I’m wrong. … I hope I’m way out in left field on it.”


Commissioners also vote Monday on another resolution by Commissioner Mike Ritz that would put the commission on record as refusing to approve any future city nominations to the Economic Development Growth Engine board until the city of Memphis pays money it pledged as its half of the startup funding for the economic development body. The money from city and county governments was to come from their joint sale of the old Defense Depot property in South Memphis. County government put its half of the sale money toward EDGE. The city used it for something else but has since worked out a payment plan between the two mayors.

The resolution could only muster two of eight votes in committee last week, but still goes to the full body Monday for a vote.

The commission will also set up the process for appointing a new Shelby County historian, following the death last year of County Historian Ed Williams. The commission is expected to take applications until interview sessions with the applicants Feb. 19, then vote at its Feb. 24 meeting on filling the vacancy. The historian is appointed for a 10-year term.

The commission will be meeting temporarily in its fourth floor committee room starting with Monday’s session.

The commission chambers on the ground floor as well as the building’s lobby are under renovation until early August.

Meanwhile, the system for watching commission meetings online remains on the blink, as it has been since before the building renovation.

The only way to witness a commission meeting is to attend in person. Even the archives on the commission’s website that once allowed citizens to view past meetings is not working.

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