VOL. 131 | NO. 110 | Thursday, June 2, 2016
County Commission Explores Wheel Tax Shift for Schools
Shelby County Commissioners set the stage in Wednesday, June 1, committee sessions to take the first of three votes Monday on a stable $4.37 county property tax rate.
But the commission will put off a vote on the county operating budget to further discuss a shift of revenue from the county wheel tax.
County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s administration is proposing to allocate half of the projected wheel tax revenue – an estimated $16 million of $32 million – to go for capital needs of the county’s seven public school districts based on average daily attendance of each.
But commissioners are debating whether to instead allow Shelby County Schools to use its 78 percent share of that $16 million for its operating budget. It would close most of a $27.2 million funding gap in the school system’s operating budget proposal.
SCS leaders prefer allowing the shift to operating expenses, superintendent Dorsey Hopson told commissioners during Wednesday’s committee sessions.
The school system would be free to use the money for operating budget items anyway because county government’s role is to approve a total amount of funding for schools. County government has no line item control of the SCS budget.
Some commissioners want to make the shift anyway.
Hopson said it would leave the school system with an approximate $5 million funding gap in its budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s after factoring in projected growth in other tax revenue sources.
So commissioners continue to debate how to close that and whether SCS could use money from its reserve as it did in the current fiscal year.
The half of the wheel tax revenue that is in play had originally gone to pay county debt. But Luttrell, in presenting his budget proposal to the commission earlier this year, said the amount for county debt is no longer needed.
The other half of wheel tax revenue is already allocated for operating expenses of all seven school districts in the county based on average daily attendance.
– Bill Dries
Overton Park Readying For June 4 ‘Day of Merrymaking’
For the fourth year in a row, the Overton Park Conservancy is kicking off the summer break with “A Day of Merrymaking,” a family festival June 4 on the park’s greensward.
In addition to kid-friendly activities at Rainbow Lake Playground and dog-friendly activities at Overton Bark, this year’s event will feature a beer garden custom-built by the park’s landscaping team at Echo Systems, with beer provided by Memphis Made Brewing Co. All proceeds from beer sales will benefit the conservancy.
A wide variety of entertainment includes tethered hot-air balloon floats overlooking the park; live music from Chinese Connection Dub Embassy and Mariachi Guadalajara; children’s area with a bungee run, games, craft tent and more; cooling stations and treats for the dogs; two dozen food trucks; and more than 40 local vendors offering art, T-shirts, books and other wares.
Free shuttles will run from the Overton Square garage to Overton Park throughout the day, with the last shuttle leaving Overton Park at 3:30 p.m. Traffic in the park will follow a one-way clockwise configuration during the festival to prevent jams on the park roads, and a bike valet will be provided for riders.
The event is set to happen rain or shine, unless there are thunderstorms. Check the Overton Park Facebook and Twitter pages for up-to-date information, and visit overtonpark.org/merrymaking for a complete event schedule and traffic/shuttle information.
– Don Wade
Old Dominion Freight Expands Service Center
Old Dominion Freight Line is expanding its facilities at 2098 Spirit of 76 Drive. The trucking company recently applied for a $1.5 million building permit to “add one bay to existing shop.”
The Memphis service center provides direct service to Tennessee and Northern Mississippi and is one of five Old Dominion service facilities in Tennessee.
In 2014, Old Dominion opened a $30 million expansion at its Memphis hub, bringing a new 267-door facility and creating 100 jobs.
– Madeline Faber
Greenprint Summit To Be Held June 23
The Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability will hold its second Greenprint Summit this month. On June 23, regional speakers and local leaders will speak on their efforts in improving green infrastructure in the Mid-South.
The announced speakers include former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Ryan Gravel, founding principal of Sixpitch and a leader in establishing the Atlanta BeltLine; and Laura Morris, former executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.
The summit, which is open to the public, runs from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road.
“This Greenprint Summit will give locals an opportunity to hear from experts on the importance of these investments and the benefits of green spaces for the livability, vitality and success of our region,” said Greenprint coordinator John Michels.
The free Greenprint Summit is made possible by the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and Hyde Family Foundations.
– Madeline Faber
Orgs Team Up to Offer STEM Camps for Teens
The Memphis Library Foundation, AutoZone and the West Tennessee STEM Hub at the University of Memphis are teaming up to offer Memphis high school students a STEM opportunity this summer.
Hosted by the Memphis Public Library and West Tennessee STEM Hub, Memphis high school students will be offered a free, hands-on camp to explore all things science, technology, engineering and math. They’ll learn new skills and explore STEM careers during the weeklong camps, which also will offer hands-on experiences and team activities that feature engineering problem-solving challenges and robotics activities.
The Library’s Teen Staff and West Tennessee STEM Hub Ambassadors will lead the camps. Following the camps, attendees will be invited to participate in follow-up events, networking and leadership opportunities, tours of local businesses, and meet-and-greets with STEM entrepreneurs.
For more information or to apply for these camps, as well as a camp schedule, visit memphislibrary.org.
– Andy Meek
Schofield Stepping Down As Correction Commissioner
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the departure of Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield to take a job with a publicly traded corporation that builds and runs prisons.
Haslam praised and thanked Schofield, who has led the department since 2011 and has been criticized frequently for his handling of staffing and safety issues. Schofield, 55, will join GEO Group in Florida as an executive vice president for continuum of care.
The Associated Press reported last month that Tennessee’s newest prison had halted new admissions after just four months of full operation.
A memorandum from a state prison official about the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility said guards there did not have control of the housing units and that some were being sent to solitary confinement for no documented reason.
– The Associated Press
Tennessee AG Says He Has Authority in Durham Probe
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is reasserting his authority to investigate sexual harassment allegations against state Rep. Jeremy Durham.
The Tennessean reports that the attorney general’s office, in an opinion issued Tuesday, said a special House committee gave Slatery the authority to conduct the probe.
Republican Rep. Rick Womick of Rockvale had posed questions about the investigation and called it a “witch hunt” and part of a “hit list” by Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville.
Harwell called in February for Slatery’s office to investigate after several women alleged inappropriate behavior by Durham, both in person and via text messages.
Durham stepped down in January as House majority whip, but the lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing, has called the scope of the investigation “unreasonable,” and is seeking re-election.
– The Associated Press