VOL. 131 | NO. 113 | Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Commission Adds To Budget Decisions, Backs Herenton Juvenile Offender Schools
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners approved a stable county property tax rate of $4.37 Monday, June 6, on the first of three readings and set the stage for final budget deliberations in committee sessions next week.
Those committee discussions will include a new topic – a possible operating budget amendment to pay county corrections division officers more to close a $9.400 gap between what they make annually and what deputy jailers at the Criminal Justice Center make.
Commissioners slated the pay gap for a committee discussions next week after several dozen corrections officers showed up at Monday’s meeting to call attention to it.
The other major budget issue left for commissioners to resolve at the Wednesday committee sessions is whether to allow Shelby County Schools to use its share of half of the $32 million a year in revenue from the county wheel tax for school operations instead of capital projects.
The administration of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell wants the $16 million to go toward capital. But SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said his school system needs it for operating expenses.
The other half of the wheel tax revenue also goes for operating budgets of all seven of Shelby County’s public school systems.
The remaining $16 million currently goes toward paying the county’s debt service. That will change, one way or another with the fiscal year that begins July 1. Half of the wheel tax revenue is no longer needed for the county debt, according to the administration.
Commissioners approved Monday a resolution backing a plan by former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and others to start two “NewPath” schools for juvenile offenders. The plan is to build two residential schools for Shelby County juvenile offenders in detention to attend.
The resolution is a statement of backing for the general concept and does not commit any county funding for the plan.
But some commissioners said they needed more detailed information before such an endorsement.
Commissioner Walter Bailey praised Herenton’s desire to get involved in the issue of juvenile justice. But he wanted to hear from experts in the juvenile justice field about the likelihood the approach would work.
“I just don’t know enough about it,” he told Herenton. “And I don’t subscribe to privatizing penal facilities.”
Herenton took offense, even though Bailey abstained on the resolution instead of voting against it.
He criticized Bailey for “having the audacity to pontificate for whatever reason.”
“Do you question my background on education?” asked the former Memphis City Schools superintendent. “I don’t question your background on the law. I don’t understand … why you wouldn’t endorse the moral obligation.”
Bailey did not respond to the criticism.
Herenton and some commissioners said the approach to rehabilitating juvenile offenders is necessary to disrupt a juvenile justice system they say is little more than a feeder system to adult prisons.
“The system we have currently is broken,” Herenton said. “This campus environment is unlike anything you have ever seen.”
The commission also delayed a vote Monday on funding through federal energy conservation bonds for roof and HVAC repairs at the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven.
And the commission approved a $2,500 grant for the nonprofit New Growth In Christ Christian Center.
The funding comes from a grant fund of $1.3 million with each of the 13 commissioners getting an allocation of $100,000 to make in grants in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
The grants must be approved by the full commission.
The grant proposed by commissioner Van Turner and approved Monday by the commission leaves a balance of $68,500 in the fund with one more commission meeting left in the fiscal year.