VOL. 132 | NO. 217 | Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Shelby County Commission Short of Votes for Pay Raises
By Bill Dries
Proposed pay raises for 19 of Shelby County government’s top elected positions don’t appear to have the nine votes necessary to pass on third and final reading in two weeks.
So Shelby County commissioner Van Turner is looking for a compromise that might put the double-digit percentage raises to voters in a 2018 referendum or tie future raises to any pay increases other county government employees get.
The three ordinances proposing raises for all 13 county commission seats, county mayor, sheriff, register, assessor, trustee and county clerk cleared the second of three readings at the Monday, Oct. 30, commission meeting.
Each of the ordinances had seven yes votes. Under the commission’s rules of procedure, ordinances advance automatically on first and second readings no matter what the vote count is.
But to win passage on third and final reading at the Nov. 13 commission meeting, the measures each require a two-thirds majority of the 13-member body, or nine votes.
“If you don’t have nine votes nothing will happen,” Turner said.
Turner has tied passage of the raises to a move by the commission to up the pay of county corrections center guards once the new commission and county mayor take office in September 2018 after the next election.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election, has opposed paying corrections officers the same as deputy jailers at the Criminal Justice Center jail.
Luttrell, who ran federal prisons before being elected Shelby County sheriff and then county mayor, has said the two jobs are not equivalent and that being a deputy jailer is much more dangerous than being a corrections officer.
Commissioner Walter Bailey favors the set of pay raises, saying county elected officials are paid “far below par.”
“I stand proudly behind it,” he said Monday. “It is well overdue.”
Commissioner Terry Roland said he would be willing to see county elected leaders get the same percentage raises county rank-and-file employees get or put the pay raises to voters in a referendum.
Otherwise, he is opposed.
“If you can’t live on $142,500, you ain’t going to be able to live on $172,100,” Roland said, referring to the county mayor’s salary, both current and with the raise.
Luttrell and his administration are not endorsing the proposal. The administration came up with some pay raise numbers at the request of commissioners based on the pay of similar county officials in the state’s largest cities.
Commissioner David Reaves, who voted no Monday, said he would favor a county charter amendment that undoes the link between what the mayor is paid and what the sheriff is paid.
By charter, the sheriff’s pay must be at least 80 percent of the county mayor’s pay, but not more than 95 percent.
The pay proposal under consideration would make the sheriff’s pay 90 percent of the mayor, in essence giving the sheriff the largest pay raise of the 19 positions. The sheriff’s pay would go from $116,955 to $154,890 per year, a 32.4 percent raise, if approved.
The trustee, county clerk and register would get a 14.7 percent pay raise. The assessor would get a 14 percent pay raise. And each of the 13 county commissioners would get 10.3 percent more pay.
If approved, the pay raises would take effect when the winners of the 2018 county elections take office on Sept. 1, 2018.