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County Commission Wraps Up FY2025 Budget Ahead of Deadline

Shelby County commissioners approved operating and capital budgets for FY 2025, while holding firm on the current property-tax rate of $3.39 during a nine-hour meeting on Monday, June 17, that crawled into the next morning.

The status quo rate was unanimously approved 13-0. It followed a 30-cent property tax hike proposal from Erika Sugarmon that failed 2-11.

The $1.6 billion consolidated budget also preserves hundreds of vacant positions in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, while putting off promised across-the-board raises for county employees until January.

The new budget takes effect on July 1.

However, much of the debate revolved around a trio to capital improvement projects.

An amendment offered by Commissioner Michael Whaley retooled the $161.47 million capital budget, by shaving off $7.1 million from the county’s share towards first year of funding for the $1 billion Regional One Health Campus rebuild.

The hospital’s CEO Reginald Coopwood approved the figure.

Some of the savings will be used to fund deferred maintenance in Memphis Shelby County Schools.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris raised the county’s share of the Regional One project to $500 million, after he failed to persuade state lawmakers to provide $350 million in matching funds for the endeavor.

According to Coopwood and Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer Harold Collins, intense lobbying in Nashville from hospital and health care companies hindered the effort.

The latter requested an attorney-client meeting to discuss the matter further.
Harris also intends to jawbone officials at Baptist Memorial Health Care and Methodist Healthcare to secure more funding for the undertaking.

On Monday, both Harris and Collins assured commissioners the county’s debt capacity could withstand the Regional One project, along with the schools. Picking and choosing wouldn’t be necessary.

A 10-year capital spending plan to fund all three projects, without years that are non-binding on the commission, failed to persuade a majority.

According to Collins, the administration intends to introduce capital budget amendments to address the out years in November or December.

During the meeting, commissioners also folded on a dispute with the Sheriff Floyd Bonner by restoring 441 vacant positions in his department.

During budget negotiations, commissioners discussed not funding positions that have been vacant for over 18 months. The move was seen as an option to cover the costs for the raises.

Bonner planned to sue, if the positions were lost, despite there being an additional 300 vacancies still on the books.

A maintenance of effort required by state law forbids cutting salaries to law enforcement agencies, unless requested by the sheriff. The Shelby County jail is also required to be fully-staffed.

“He threatened to take us to court quite frankly. I don’t think anybody wants that,” said budget committee chairman Mickell Lowery. “This asks us to all make a little bit of sacrifices.”

The vacancies allow the commission to keep a higher salary restriction in place. It limits the SCSO to hiring in line with previous years. The accounting practice is typically used by large organizations in to reign in future costs.

Harris expects hundreds of slots to remain vacant between now and the next budget season.

Members also eliminated half the burden of the six-percent raise to county employees, by forestalling its effect date until January.

Lowery also bundled a group of amendments that trimmed $6.6 million added from earlier amendments while adding another $4 million to the operating budget. It passed 11-2.

Further cuts came from amendments offered by Commissioner Mick Wright. One slashed $130,972 from a division of the Circuit Court eliminated by the state legislature. A second cut another $130,972 in funding allocated for a Shelby County Clerk’s office location at Poplar Plaza, after being evicted from the location in 2023.

Wright offered a third amendment to cut funding for the bail courtroom, along with a division of the Criminal Court – also eliminated by the legislature this year. It failed.
During the protracted session, members also approved the creation the Shelby County Real Estate Department to replace the Shelby County Land Bank on a 8-4 vote.

Introduced last year on the recommendations of the Delinquent Tax Property Ad Hoc Committee, the ordinance has been a familiar topic of discussion as it was crafted between delayed full commission votes and referrals back to committee.

Over the span, the twelve sets of amendments were voted on.

The new institution will market and promote the sales of delinquent properties, as well as require property purchasers to follow through to complete development projects.
The new department will be a part of Shelby County Public Works. Staffing costs are estimated at $389,575.

The ordinance was sponsored by Britney Thornton and Erika Sugarmon.

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