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VOL. 130 | NO. 71 | Monday, April 13, 2015

County Commission Looks for Schools Budget

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners have plenty of work to begin on the $1.18 billion budget proposal submitted to the body this week by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The commission’s budget committee, chaired by commissioner Heidi Shafer, began its work last week. But the discussion should pick up its pace once the Shelby County Schools system delivers its budget proposal to county leaders.

Shelby County Commissioners are in budget season as they and county administration await a budget request from Shelby County Schools that will be a crucial part of deliberations.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

That’s expected at the end of April, with some better ideas about direction likely coming at a school board budget retreat scheduled for Thursday, April 16.

But Luttrell and his administration are already preparing some options based on differing estimates from school board members on the amount of the schools budget gap, ranging from $14.8 million to $25 million.

“I think it’s premature to say that is an increase request because they haven’t taken that to the school board yet,” county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy said last week. “It’s a while before we get a budget with an ask.”

More math in involved once the ask is formally in from Shelby County Schools. About 20 percent of the amount SCS seeks from the county is added to that amount as the share for the six suburban school systems, which are entering their second budget year.

“Whatever we approve for the county schools in their budget increase, you can add another 20 percent because the municipalities get to share and share alike based on student population,” Kennedy said.

The indication is that while the six suburban school systems have capital needs that might go beyond their share of the funding, Luttrell and his administration plan to stick to the percentages and leave any extra to the respective suburban governments and their sales and property tax revenue.

“Their budget from us, just like it is from the state, is formula-driven,” Kennedy said. “And what other money they need, they go to their municipal government to get additional funding. That’s going to work that way for operating funds and capital expenditures.”

Meanwhile, the commission meets Monday, April 13, at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting on Twitter at @tdnpols.

Commissioners are set to vote on an economic impact plan for the Shops at Millington Farms development. The property includes 8570 U.S. 51 North, on the east side of the highway between Veterans Parkway and Glencoe Road.

The property would become a retail shopping center with two outparcels.

The plan on the commission’s agenda approves a tax increment financing zone using Millington and Shelby County property tax revenues to finance the $3.3 million in infrastructure improvements that are the public part of the project.

The commission also returns Monday to the twice-delayed proposal by commissioner Eddie Jones that would put up $250,000 of county money to match the $250,000 the Memphis City Council put in a disaster recovery assistance program.

The fund would be available to homeowners, renters or small-business owners whose property is damaged in events like the September flooding in several parts of the city. The damage, particularly along a drainage creek in a residential area of Whitehaven, was substantial. But the damage estimate did not reach the minimum threshold that would have triggered federal disaster assistance.

Luttrell has questioned whether the use of county funds for private property recovery is legal or proper.

Up for the first of three readings on Monday’s agenda is an ordinance that requires cars and other vehicles to stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing roads at a crosswalk.

The crosswalk measure, proposed by commissioner Steve Basar, matches an ordinance the Memphis City Council approved in September 2012 for Memphis. The amendments on the commission’s agenda would apply only to unincorporated Shelby County.

The changes also require motorists to yield to visually impaired pedestrians with a white cane or a guide dog, and they make seeking payment for watching or “guarding” cars parked on the street a fineable offense.

And there is a prohibition on those under the influence of drugs or alcohol from walking in the street when there is a sidewalk. The amendments establish that pedestrians on a sidewalk have the right of way when the sidewalk crosses an alley or building entrance or driveway.

The fines for soliciting money for parked cars and not yielding to the visually impaired are $25. The fines for the pedestrian rights of way amendments are $10.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289