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VOL. 132 | NO. 76 | Monday, April 17, 2017

Commission Moves Closer to Budget Season

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County commissioners aren’t at budget season just yet, but there are already indications that it is going to be about capital spending.

Shelby County Commissioners aren’t in their budget season yet but are already getting some information and asking questions about the budget proposal to come.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Commissioners already have a detailed look at what Shelby County Schools will be looking for in the way of funding. And the commission will vote Monday, April 17, on a change in plans for a proposed $120 million refinancing of the county’s capital bond debt.

The administration of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is recommending using $20 million from a surplus in the debt service fund to repay debt and avoid issuing that amount in bonds.

Commission budget committee chairman Steve Basar, however, wants to keep the $20 million in the fund at least for now to explore the possibility of a property tax cut.

“If we give up $20 million in the debt service fund today, we may be needing additional tax revenue,” Basar said two weeks ago. “I would prefer to keep that $20 million flexible.”

In committee sessions last week, commissioner David Reaves agreed, “for the time being.”

County Finance Director Wanda Richards said the administration needs a firm decision from the commission in early to mid-June for bond rating agencies and so the county can go to market in time if that is the decision.

Reaves said that gives the commission time to get a better idea of the budget changes it might make given the recertified county tax rate that will be established based on the 2017 reappraisal.

The recertified tax rate, which will produce approximately the same amount of revenue the county gets from the current rate of $4.37, is expected in May.

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

Meanwhile, the commission got an early look at the capital spending ask from Shelby County Schools at committee sessions April 13.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the school system will be seeking $54 million in capital funding. Of that amount, $42 million would be for the construction of new, larger Goodlett Elementary and Alcy Elementary schools.

They would replace existing schools on their respective sites and result in closing several nearby schools as those students are consolidated into the larger school buildings.

The remainder of the capital request would go for a renovation of East High School and maintenance at other schools.

“We have finally stabilized the district from a fiscal standpoint,” Hopson told commissioners. Hopson has proposed a balanced operating budget that includes $50 million to spend on programs in schools. That includes 19 “critical focus” schools that are on the cusp of either closing because of low enrollment and low student achievement or growing enrollment through new efforts to turn around the schools.

“We’ve closed a lot of schools,” Hopson said. “Now we want to be able to not just close schools, but invest in several of our most fragile schools.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270