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Edmund Ford Jr.

Edmund Ford Jr. represents District 9 on the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. Currently he serves as vice chairman of the County Commission budget committee. 

County Commission is doing 'the hard and meticulous work' of the budget

By Published: June 12, 2019 5:33 PM CT

<strong>Edmund Ford Jr.</strong>

Edmund Ford Jr.

In late April, county Mayor Lee Harris presented a proposed budget to the Shelby County Commission. Although Mayor Harris fulfilled the minimum obligation in presenting a balanced budget by charter, it comes nowhere close to adequately meeting the needs of the citizens of Shelby County.

He wants you to give him “credit” for presenting a balanced budget, but that means I would have to give the student who is always late to class “credit” for finally arriving on time to turn in homework that is past due. I use this as my example, because the County Commission is performing its timely due diligence through the budget reconciliation process to address needs where the mayor has failed to do so before the June 30 deadline.

During our budget hearings, we are working within the confines of the mayor’s proposed budget to rearrange priorities and fund unkept undertakings by Mayor Harris. Let me remind the reader that this mayor made a plethora of promises to Shelby Countians on the campaign trail and during his brief time in office, and has fallen short on many of them.

For example, the mayor ran on funding MATA and ensuring that all full-time employees received $15 an hour. He did not keep his word; his budget has no MATA funding and almost 700 workers are still making less than the promised hourly rate. The County Commission’s budget amendments make both of these pledges come true … not just talk.

Speaking of salaries, the mayor’s proposed employee raises violate existing county policy that requires a “fair and equitable” compensation system. The commission’s budget amendment for across-the-board 1.5% raises (2.5% for public safety) provides that equity and prepares the county to recruit and retain law enforcement before de-annexation occurs in 2021 while keeping us competitive with peers.

Not only is the commission attempting to capably compensate our employees, we plan to cover and extend the essential services that our government provides. The commission, in my opinion, has done a better job in creating a balanced budget for all of Shelby County than Mayor Harris. I believe that my colleagues are committed to ensure that taxpayer dollars go where they are most needed where the mayor has left out the average constituent. After the process is complete, I do not forecast any property tax increase.

Instead of a simple “thanks” by Mayor Harris, he and his administration are using a lot of time and energy to paint the picture that the commission plans to raise taxes, which is a complete falsehood. No commissioner has stated formally that they plan to do so. This “scare tactic” by the mayor is laughable and irresponsible. No one is talking about raising taxes, except the mayor.

A careful analysis will show that the commission has been performing the hard and meticulous work. For two months, we have talked to agency and department heads, finding fiscal resources that were underutilized and can be deferred to future uses. The commission has stated on record that some of this savings can be reprogrammed for other quality of life uses, not “pet projects”, as the mayor wants you to think.

At the end of the day, the goal is to have a net zero increase or decrease to the budget. Legislative bodies in the past have been careful to ensure that the expenditure budget that is set matches revenues so that government will not have to come back to the citizens and ask for a property tax increase.  During my 12 years as a legislator, there have been hundreds of amendments performed on a sitting mayor’s proposed budget, many not requiring a property tax increase or loss of services. This process is not new to Mayor Harris, as he participated in many of these budget hearings as a legislator where he proposed a handful of amendments himself.

In conclusion, one of the mayor’s classic lines during our commission sessions has been that he “yields to the will of the body,” namely the County Commission. My recommendation is that he does just that so the commission can finish his incomplete homework assignment so that the quality of life for all Shelby Countians shall be fully funded for our next fiscal year.

(Editor's note: In response to County Commissioner Edmund Ford's guest column, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris asked The Daily Memphian to publish the following reply.)

 I am working hard to try to create space for reconciliation with Commissioner Ford. Coincidentally, I even called him the day before this op-ed to praise him for his service during the budget process.

Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful so far in engaging meaningfully with Mr. Ford. I will continue to reach out to him in hopes of making contact and addressing his concerns.

We grew up together and I’ve always considered him smart and capable. I will continue to offer Mr. Ford the olive branch of cooperation. There’s no reason why we can’t work together.

Topics

Shelby County Commission Lee Harris Edmund Ford Jr.

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