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Shelby County budget needs cuts, mayor worries that means layoffs

"For me, it’s hard to believe a cut won’t negatively affect staff," said Mayor Lee Harris.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The salad was good. The tomatoes were fresh, and you can’t beat those Peabody Hotel rolls.

It would have been a heck of a nice day if it weren’t for that budget stuff.

Shelby County Commissioners have been debating all of that budget stuff for weeks. The coronavirus quarantine resulted in a deficit of tens of millions of dollars.

Mayor Lee Harris presented a budget with no layoffs, some cuts, and a $16 increase in the wheel tax. Commissioners shot that down.

Since then, some have said they could cut the Mayor’s budget by more than $20-million.

Mayor Harris isn’t buying any of it.

“The Commission is hell bent to make further cuts in county government. And these cuts to county government are going to impact programming or personnel,” Mayor Harris said. “God forbid we have to layoff someone during this period of economic contraction.”

County Commission Chairman says it is not impossible, but awfully tough to make department cuts without layoffs.

“The real question,” he says, “... is will these cuts significantly impact our staff. 70% of our expenses is people. For me, it’s hard to believe a cut won’t negatively affect staff.”

The meeting was held in a ballroom of the Peabody Hotel. Meetings have mostly been held on computer. Chairman Billingsley says he needed a room big enough to take care of social distancing.

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