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VOL. 133 | NO. 93 | Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Commission To Consider Overriding Adviser Veto

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County commissioners vote Wednesday, May 9, in special session on whether to override a veto by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell of their decision to reappoint attorney Julian Bolton as the commission’s “legislative policy adviser.”

Luttrell vetoed the commission resolution April 13, saying it has “technical defects and doesn’t follow county purchasing policies.”

It will take nine votes on the 13-member body to override the veto at the 10:30 a.m. meeting.

Shelby County commissioners take up a possible veto override in a special meeting Wednesday, May 9, after getting a formal presentation by Mark Luttrell of his final budget proposal as county mayor. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

Bolton, a former county commissioner, was appointed to the position when Terry Roland was commission chairman. The appointment was part of an ongoing disagreement about who represents the commission in legal matters.

A majority of commissioners want an attorney independent of the county attorney’s office, similar to the arrangement Memphis City Council members have with attorney Allan Wade.

But Luttrell argues the county charter doesn’t allow for such independent representation. Instead, he says the county attorney represents all of county government, including the commission.

Roland didn’t name Bolton as a legal adviser, but instead used his power as chairman to make a temporary appointment of an adviser.

Current commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer renewed that appointment.

The special meeting Wednesday morning follows Luttrell’s formal presentation of is last budget proposal as county mayor to the commission at a 9:55 a.m. committee session.

The $1.3 billion budget proposal includes a plan to lower the current $4.11 county property rate to $4.05.

Luttrell is proposing the rollback after his administration projected an $18 million to $25 million county surplus for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

The windfall follows the reappraisal of property countywide in 2017 for taxation purposes. The county was expecting twice as many appeals of property values after the new tax rate was set as there actually were.

By state law, the recertified tax rate from the property reappraisal once every four years cannot produce more revenue than the county or city were getting from the existing rate. The recertified rate is also approved by the state.

The commission is not required to lower the rate to $4.05, which would be not only a resetting of the tax rate to eliminate the windfall but a tax reduction beyond that “so that there is no question we are trying to give some back,” said county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy in a budget briefing session last week.

There are several options for the commission, including passing what Luttrell recommends or going even lower. Or the commission could set a new certified property tax rate at $4.05 and then in a separate motion approve what would amount to a tax hike that takes the rate back up to $4.11.

“All you have to do is calculate the recapture rate to show the public what it would have been after you’ve taken the actual appeals into account,” Kennedy said. “County commissioners can set the tax rate lower or higher. All you have to do is have a public hearing and demonstrate that you’ve calculated the recapture rate and you can go up. You can go down – set it where you want to.”

If the commission should reset the rate above the “recapture” rate of $4.06, it has to publish a public notice. “We have to publish what that (recapture) rate is,” said county administration and finance director Wanda Richards, “so that we are acknowledging publicly that that is above what the recapture rate is.”

Kennedy doesn’t think the commission will move to go above the recapture rate of $4.06 and several commissioners have said they favor a tax reduction beyond that.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has proposed a similar rollback of the city property tax rate in his budget proposal presented to the Memphis City Council last month. Strickland is proposing that the tax rate go from the current $3.27 to $3.19. That would not only make up for an $8 million windfall to the city, by Strickland’s estimate, but provide for a one-cent reduction in the city property tax rate.

PROPERTY SALES 66 66 6,612
MORTGAGES 78 78 4,207
BUILDING PERMITS 158 158 16,073
BANKRUPTCIES 45 45 3,441