VOL. 129 | NO. 106 | Monday, June 2, 2014
Commission to Vote on Budget, Tax Rate
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners take final votes Monday, June 2, on a $1.1 billion operating budget and a $75 million capital budget for Shelby County government, and the first of three votes on a new property tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.
Follow the meeting on Twitter at @tdnpols.
The administration of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is proposing a $4.37 property tax rate that is 1 cent lower than the current rate and includes a 3 percent raise for county government employees.
Luttrell has also proposed eliminating the extra 4 cents on the property tax rate paid by property owners who live outside Memphis that pays the debt on rural school bonds used to build Arlington High School.
The remaining debt would instead be paid from sales tax revenue in unincorporated Shelby County under Luttrell’s proposal.
But commissioners Steve Mulroy and Mike Ritz want to keep the 4 cents on the tax rate outside Memphis in place and have other plans for the $2.8 million in sales tax revenue Luttrell wants to devote to the rural school bonds.
Mulroy has proposed using the sales tax revenue to fund an expansion of pre-kindergarten, whose funding would be administered by United Way. The proposal failed last week in committee sessions after Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy expressed reservations about whether the funding would trigger a maintenance of effort requirement for county government to keep providing that level of funding in future years.
“I know you don’t want this to pass,” Ritz countered. “But can it be done?”
Kennedy said he remained concerned about education funding going to a nonprofit and whether state and federal officials would approve of it.
Mulroy had more luck last week in amending the county’s $75 million capital budget to include $1.2 million as a local match toward federal voting funds that pass through the state. Mulroy’s amendment pledges the local funding toward the Shelby County Election Commission purchasing optical scan voting machines with a paper trail.
The commission approved the overall capital improvements budget, which is financed with bond debt to include appropriation of $3 million in county funding toward the $70 million in other funding, most of it private funding, that pays for the “Heart of the Park” master plan for Shelby Farms Park, including an expansion of Patriot Lake.
The capital budget also includes an immediate appropriation of another $1.5 million for the expansion of railroad facilities on Presidents Island for Cargill Inc. and other tenants in the expansion of the industrial park.
The pairing of the park and the rail extension caused some confusion for commission Chairman James Harvey, who had a lot of questions about a rail line to the park until other commissioners pointed out the two projects weren’t related.
Other commissioners said they had concerns about continued county funding for the park, which is still owned by county government but is maintained, controlled and developed by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. Those commissioners contend the conservancy agreement specified no further investment would be made by the county.
Luttrell countered that there never was an agreement in which county funding was a “one-time commitment,” and he argued that the vast majority of the conservancy’s operating funding and funding for development of the park comes from private sources and grants.
Also on the commission’s agenda Monday is a new county cemetery at the northeast corner of Raleigh Millington and Duncan roads. The Memphis City Council voted down the plan last month.
County officials say the current county cemetery on Ellis Road will run out of room for burials in two years.
The commission also takes up a planned development by First Citizen’s National Bank for a retail and office center on the northwest corner of Austin Peay Highway and Millington-Arlington Road.
The commission was to vote on the matter at its May 12 meeting as the last item on the agenda, but the commission lost its quorum and adjourned before the vote.