County Commission Needs a Makeover

After watching our county commission operate over the past couple of years, I think I finally have a sense of what really has become one of the most divisive and dysfunctional groups in our county(yes. Even more so than the new school board)

Yesterday, the county commission voted down a tax increase to fund the budget that it had approved a couple of weeks earlier. After watching, the chairman’s vote, it appears that the tax rate vote was about gamesmanship and who becomes chairman of the county commission.

The reality is that this commission approved a budget and then denied the funding for it. Now, I don’t support tax hikes. And I really don’t support government waste. But coming to a meeting and voting for or against a tax rate without offering any viable solutions to reduce the cost of government is a tragedy. (This is aimed mostly at those who approve a tax rate without bringing any ideas to the table on how to reduce it)

Our commission is failing us because the are more about standing against something as opposed to working towards something. The Shelby County budget is one of those. Almost every municipality in the county raised their rate to provide the same level of tax support except for county government. Realistically what that says is that we have to do more with less or better said we either cut salaries or we cut jobs and effect services.

Do we as a county really want to cut services?

Our county commission needs to work towards collaborative government that is proactive, about ideas and facts, and less about circular rhetoric taking a stance on something just because you would rather fight than work together.

This all boils down to a failure of our leadership. How in the world did the SCS work together with 23 members and still cut over 100 million out of a budget? We had to collaborate. And at the end of the day, there was lots of pain but we all shared it.

So what would I like to see happen? See agreement in the following areas..

#1 – Low competitive tax rate for our county and for our municipalities

#2 – quality education for all students

#3 – a safe county where people desire to live with quality police and fire

#4 – low unemployment rate and attractive business environment

#5 – an acceptable alternative to pilots

These are all places that we probably agree. It is just the avenue(how) that we have to agree on.

I will lay one example for your consideration as an idea. Shelby County Schools IT services budgeted 27 million dollars this year, Shelby County Government budgeted 10 million dollars this year. Memphis City Government budgeted 17 million dollars this year for IT. On the Shelby County alone(SCS and Shelby County) that is 37 million dollars.

Why not condense our IT infrastructure and support services into one department? That will reduce headcount and collapse data centers and other fixed costs- Cost Reduction

Then lets convert our IT infrastructure into a shared service model in which Memphis (or whomever) can just subscribe to services for a fee.- Revenue capability

Within this model, we can provision infrastructure and provide IT capacity and availability(as a service) at a reduced rate to new start-up businesses instead of providing pilot incentives on real estate. Do we realize that the reason a business needs a PILOT is because the county tax rate is on high on businesses? – Revenue Capability

Utilize  capacity in our infrastructure pipeline as opposed to just giving a pilot that last forever and my not return anything.

And we don’t have to have consolidation to get there.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the types of discussions we need to have. We can fix the tax rate and provide quality services but we need to move out of the stone ages. We need new blood…

And at least, when a tax rate increase has been brought to the table, we know that we all did everything we could to avoid it. And then we can vote aye or nay with the facts.



2 Responses to County Commission Needs a Makeover

  1. Ronald Williams says:

    David – This may be disheartening to you, but I’m not in favor of any measure that stands the remotest chance of being manipulated by Memphians into anything resembling consolidation such as suggested here. There is a proven track record of dishonesty in this regard (for instance the school merger”) and their intention has always been one of avoiding financial responsibility and putting off their liabilities onto the rest of the county. That seems to be their strategy for solving their financial dillema. Until some time in the future when that perception changes, I will strongly oppose what you suggest.

    • Ron, I get it and I don’t support governmental consolidation in the least. But functional shared services is already being done today. And more than likely you will see it manifest itself in the new municipal districts as well.

      This is about infrastructure and idle capacity. Any good business looks for a way to maximize capacity and return on investment.

      We need to at least look at cost savings and impact to the tax rate to arm ourselves with “have we done everything we can” before we mess with taxes.

      Terry Roland even recommended turning over Shelby County Head Start to the School System even when the SCS. Does that make sense? I am not sure but the thought would be consolidation of personnel. It is the same with IT infrastructure solution.

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