VOL. 131 | NO. 218 | Tuesday, November 1, 2016
County Commission Split on MLGW PILOT Referendum
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners couldn’t come up with seven votes, much less a unanimous vote, Monday. Oct. 31, on a resolution opposing the November ballot question that would change the balance of in lieu of tax payments by Memphis Light Gas and Water Division in favor of the city of Memphis.
Meanwhile, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has come out against the proposed city charter amendments which, if passed, would mean $5 million more in the PILOT payments to the city from the utility and $5 million less in PILOT payments to county government.
Four of the seven commissioners present at the end of the Monday commission meeting voted for the resolution of opposition offered by commissioner Mark Billingsley.
Commissioner Terry Roland, who abstained, thought voters might mistake the commission resolution as urging them to also vote no on a county charter amendment that would require commission approval in order for the mayor to fire the county attorney.
Commissioners Reginald Milton and Heidi Shafer voted against the resolution on the MLGW PILOT payments. Voting for the resolution were Billingsley was well as commissioners Willie Brooks, Steve Basar and commission chairman Melvin Burgess.
Luttrell has also come out against the county attorney ballot proposal as well. Roland backs the idea in a dispute between some on the commission and the mayor that has several other fronts.
On one of those other fronts, Roland pulled second reading of his ordinance Monday that would have put assistant county attorneys under the county’s civil service system, which would have made it more difficult for a mayor to dismiss them.
The first of three readings to allow Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies the option to write a ticket with a $50 fine for possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana failed on a 4-7 commission vote after a lengthy debate by the body that, like the vote, cut across party lines.
Despite the failure on first reading, the ordinance still advances to second and third readings.
The ordinance would apply only to unincorporated Shelby County and matches an ordinance approved by the Memphis City Council Oct. 4 that applies to the city of Memphis.
The commission ordinance would not apply to the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County.
A revived ordinance on second reading to raise the pay of Shelby County Schools board members to $25,000 a year and $26,000 for the school board chairman also advanced to third reading with a Monday vote. It fell short of the nine votes needed, garnering only seven. Pay raises and tax hikes require a two-thirds majority.
The commission approved economic impact plans that set in motion two tax increment finance – or TIF – zones Monday. They are the University District bordering the University of Memphis and the Lake District on the site of the Belz Factory Outlet Mall in Lakeland.
The TIF zones capture incremental property tax revenue – city and county – generated by development in both areas and applies them to public infrastructure for the development.
The city of Memphis has already approved the TIF for the University District that captures the city property tax revenue.