Memphis City Council's Budget Talks Underway

Memphis City Council's Budget Talks Underway

Memphis City Council members are debating right now whether to cut hundreds, possibly thousands of city jobs, or to raise taxes to an historic high.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Memphis City Council members are debating right now whether to cut hundreds, possibly thousands of city jobs, or to raise taxes to an historic high.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee State Comptroller is keeping an eye on everything. He says if the city council can't produce a balanced budget, he will.

Every year when the council votes on a budget, it's a long night. This one is different. It's perhaps the most important budget the council has ever voted on, so a long night might not be long enough.

This is Memphis city politics. So, council member Janis Fullilove hears a story from somebody who heard it from somebody else, whose best friend said she heard it from some guy that there were city council members who met with a Shelby County State Senator and said the city would give up its charter, give up its right to exist, in order to get out of paying its debts.

"I'm saying it's alleged," Fullilove stated. This "alleged" meeting happened in Nashville, she said.

"To go against this city and sit up and be in collusion with somebody in Nashville that refers to us as 'Little Nigeria', who says we're going to give up our charter, I think it's just awful."

It's also just a rumor. Comptroller Justin Wilson also said he's heard the story, and it's untrue.

But here's the truth. He's watching this budget battle, ready to balance the city and raise taxes and lay off workers if the city council doesn't do it. It's why Mayor A C Wharton wants a tax increase of 40 cents and wants to get rid of 400 employees.

Directors of the police and fire departments have warned the council: approve the Wharton budget and get ready for trouble.

MPD Director Toney Armstrong said, "With this tax rate we would have to more than likely reduce staffing by 190 officers."

"If we look at cutting this department any further, we're looking at the possibility of cutting engines and closing fire stations, and then there are strategies we'd have to look at," added Memphis Fire Director Alvin Benson.

Everybody has been told to expect a long night. There are also a lot of city workers there, hoping to see a budget approved that gives them back their pay cut of 4.6 percent.

The group can meet next week if they fail to reach a budget.

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