VOL. 132 | NO. 216 | Tuesday, October 31, 2017
County Pay Raises Short of Votes, In Search of Compromise
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 pay raises to voters in a 2018 referendum or tie future pay raises to any raises that county government rank and file 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 nine-vote two-third majority of the 13-member body.
“If you don’t have nine votes nothing will happen,” Turner said. Turner has tied passage of the pay 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.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election, has opposed a move by the corrections officers for pay parity with 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 county corrections officers.
Commissioner Walter Bailey favors the 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 to put the pay raises to voters in a referendum.
Otherwise he said 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 current pay for county mayor and the level the proposed pay raise would make the mayor’s annual pay.
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 big cities.
Commissioner David Reaves, who was among the no votes on second reading 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 the charter, the sheriff’s pay must be at least 80 percent of the county mayor’s pay but not more than 95 percent.
The commission proposal is to make the sheriff’s pay 90 percent of the mayor giving the sheriff the largest pay raise of the 19 elected positions in the ordinance.
The sheriff’s pay would go from the current $116,955 to $154,890, a 32.4 percent pay raise.
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 commission positions would see a 10.3 percent pay raise.
If approved, the pay raises would take effect when the winners of the 2018 county elections take office on Sept. 1, 2018.
In other action Monday, the commission advanced on the first of three readings an ordinance that would increase the county’s air pollution emission fee and the major and minimum source permit fees for non-automobile emissions.
The fee per ton of annual emissions would got from $48 to $53. The major source annual permit fee would go from $2,000 to $5,000 and the minimum emission fee from $1,000 to $1,500.
Third and final reading of the ordinance would be at the first commission meeting in December.
Commissioners also approved an amendment to the county’s agreement for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy to manage Shelby Farms Park. The agreement increases what the county pays the conservancy from $585,848 to $825,848. The conservancy expands the area it maintains and operates for the county to include the operations area at Mullins Station and Raleigh LaGrange Roads. And county government no longer buys, replaces or repairs the equipment the conservancy uses.
Bailey abstained in the vote on the item. He opposes county funding to the conservancy and has called for at least some of the park land to be developed.
The commission also granted a pedestrian and bicycle trial easement on the other side of Walnut Grove Road for the Wolf River Greenway project.
And the commission approved turning over 15.1 acres of county land at Rust Road and Highway 51 for Shelby County Schools to build a new Woodstock K-12 School. The site is across Rust Road from the existing Woodstock Middle School in northern Shelby County.
The commission also approved two resolutions and two ordinances on first reading that begin a transformation of the Community Redevelopment Agency, putting the joint city-county agency in control of redevelopment of the Binghampton area and an expanded Uptown area.
The Memphis City Council is expected to act soon on comparable measures on its side of the transaction.
Commissioners also approved a new contract compliance committee with members that include Luttrell, Turner and commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer as well as county Equal Opportunity Coordinator Carolyn Watkins and five citizens.
More citizens representing all segments of the minority business community will be appointed next month to the committee that is an “oversight working group” on county goals to increase the percentage of county government contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses.