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VOL. 131 | NO. 62 | Monday, March 28, 2016

Commission Takes Second Vote on Term Limits Referendum

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners take up the second of three readings Monday, March 28, of an ordinance that would ask voters to do away with term limits for the commission, the office of Shelby County Mayor and five other countywide elected positions.


The referendum proposal by Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey was defeated on first reading March 7, but advances to third reading regardless of whether it passes or fails on first and second readings.

The commission meets at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for the latest developments.

Bailey’s measure would put a proposal on the August ballot to do away with the limits of two consecutive terms approved by Shelby County voters in 1994 for the mayor and commission.

Voters approved a limit of two consecutive terms in a 2008 referendum to also include the offices of Sheriff, County Clerk, Register, Trustee and Property Assessor.

That ballot question was approved months after voters countywide rejected a proposal to limit, to three consecutive terms, those five offices as well as the commission and mayor.

In March 16 committee sessions, several commissioners questioned how many other county governments in the state had term limits and found only Shelby County and Knox County impose the limits.

“I support term limits because my constituents do,” said commissioner David Reaves. “But it would be nice to vet it just a little bit further.”

The commission also votes Monday on rearranging about $1.1 million in county capital funding to Shelby County Schools for three “critical” school building maintenance and repair projects.

The three projects have triggered a renewed discussion between school system officials and commissioners about the flow of money to those projects and others.

The projects in the resolution include the repair of a November 2015 wall collapse at Ross Elementary School, a January 2015 partial roof collapse at the school system’s Central Nutrition Center and another $580,000 in mechanical repairs at several buildings.

The Ross project is $4 million overall with the school system seeking $424,000 to get started.

The Central Nutrition Center project is $2 million overall with the school system seeking $120,000 to begin work there.

Commissioners at the committee sessions earlier this month were critical of the school system for waiting on the Ross and Central Nutrition Center projects. But school officials said the process to get such funding rearranged is a long one.

“The school system is going to have to be less bureaucratic,” said commissioner Heidi Shafer. “The world moves a lot faster now.”

Commissioner Mark Billingsley also said the school system could have acted quicker on major problems, and he’s been getting phone calls about those places and others.

“We approve a tremendous amount of money for education,” he said. “When we approve it, we do our due diligence. … All of us sort of expect to see some progress.”

Meanwhile, last week Shelby County Schools board members got their first detailed look at a long-awaited facilities study of all 22 million square feet of building space owned by the school system.

It’s a facilities study county commissioners have also been awaiting.

County government is the sole local government funding source – operating and capital – for Shelby County Schools.

The 56-page study by Fleming-Marshall JV and Self-Tucker Architects shows the school system has $476.4 million in critical deferred maintenance needs over the next five fiscal years.

The largest single category by expense is the $153.1 million of repairs and maintenance to mechanical systems followed by $67.4 million in roofing.

Of the 182 schools in the system, 64 are 40 years old and 20 have been around for 70 to 96 years.

Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said earlier this year that the report will probably lead to recommendations by him to the board to close more schools.

The school system has closed 17 schools in the last four fiscal years and by Hopson’s estimate has about 27,000 “more seats than students” in a system of approximately 94,000 students.

PROPERTY SALES 89 339 12,708
MORTGAGES 42 227 7,982
BUILDING PERMITS 171 518 29,639
BANKRUPTCIES 32 129 6,029