MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby county mayor Lee Harris' Veto of 1-million dollars in funds for the University of Memphis was overturned Monday..
The mayor at odds over the university not paying all their employees at least 15 dollars an hour.
In a 12-1 vote, Commissioners voted to override the mayor's veto.
“Well we’re very pleased with the approval. I think that it shows consistency in support of the project,” said Ted Townsend Chief of economic development and government relations for the University of Memphis.
Townsend say it's much needed funding for the school's 10 million dollar campaign to overhaul the school’s aquatic center. The effort would turn it into the Mike Rose Natatorium, large enough to host regional and national swim meets. “The micro natatorium is going to be a great community asset,” said Townsend. Despite the veto, Mayor Lee Harris said he feels confident that the commission can eventually negotiate with the University to increase their minimum wage to at least 15 dollars an hour. “I think we can make something happen for the neediest among us, the custodial workers at the University of Memphis who work every single day and still live in poverty,” said Harris. Earlier this month, University of Memphis President Dr. David Rudd responded with a lengthy tweet to the Mayor. He called his request for an increase of the minimum wage in exchange for county funds unethical.
However, in a follow-up tweet on July 8th Dr. Rudd said, "We have a definitive plan. We'll be at $15 hour in 2 years. And in a sustainable manner."
Supporters of the wage increase question if that will happen. “We have seen a tweet. We have not seen a concrete time frame moving forward and that is of greatest concern to us,” said Jayanni Webster with the United Campus Workers.
Monday during the commission meeting, representatives with the University seemed to soften their stance on reaching 15 dollars an hour in any specific time frame. “I would think it is focused on the variables at play. We want to continue the wage increases based on a financially, fiscal and responsible model,” said Townsend.
Townsend said the University would have to consider student enrollment and state funding before making any promises. Monday commissioners also passed a revised version of the Mayor's proposal for a county ordinance for 15 dollars an hour for county workers.
In the past, the commission has passed executive orders and resolutions on raising the minimum wage, but an ordinance would make it more permanent.
Commissioners Edmund Ford Jr. and Eddie Jones sponsored an amendment to the ordinance.
The proposal heads back to committee for further study.
Ford also filed an inquiry with the county attorney to see if the Mayor’s veto of funds for the University of Memphis violated an ethical policies.