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Jeffrey Woodard, amateur budget planner

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It's not news that the county has budget problems. Facing a $1.7 billion debt, county leaders have been looking for ways to trim costs across the board. County commissioner Bruce Thompson has proposed privatizing security at the checkpoint entrances of the corrections center and the county jail as cutback measures, but the proposal has been met with opposition from anti-privatization groups. Among those opponents is Jeffrey Woodard, who currently works security at 201 Poplar.

Woodard says he's always had an interest in county finances, but when he learned that his job may be at risk, he developed his own Shelby County revenue-reduction proposal. His solution to the county's money woes includescharging an occupational privilege tax, restructuring the construction bond program, charging eyesore fees for blighted properties, cracking down on delinquent taxpayers, setting up better checks and balances for private contracts, and cutting the number and salaries of appointed officials. He plans to introduce his budget at a town-hall meeting March 30th at the Central Library on Poplar.

Who would the occupational privilege tax apply to?

Anybody coming into the county to work. They take our income, leave, and we get nothing. And they don't pay the sales tax because the sales tax in Mississippi and Arkansas is cheaper than ours.

Then we could reduce property and sales taxes in Shelby County. We need to put our sales tax in line where we're competitive.

How would the eyesore fees work?

Like a ticket. A person who doesn't take care of their property is penalizing everybody in the community. You have some people with $180,000 houses who make good money but won't keep their properties up. I've seen it from South Memphis to Germantown.

What's wrong with administrative salaries?
At the correctional center, over a five-year period, the nonadministrative salaries have gone down about $700,000. If you look at the county budget, the administrative salaries at the correctional center from 1998 to 2002 went up $4 million. That's insane.

What will you do with this plan?

I presented it to the County Commission on January 24th. I asked them again about two weeks ago, and I have not heard one word back. I'm going to stay on the issue until somebody wakes up. They're taxing us into oblivion while private contracts and administrative salaries are going through the roof.

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