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New Shelby County budget may have $34 million deficit thanks to coronavirus outbreak

Mayor Lee Harris will present the budget that may include layoffs and tax increase

SHELBY COUNTY, Tennessee —

Don’t watch anybody make sausage. I did one, and I’ve lived to regret it. It is stone ground ugly. Watching government at work is almost as bad. Wait until you see Monday’s meeting of the Shelby County Commission.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris warned members it was coming. They will see it on Monday. A budget proposal that is already more than $30-million dollars in the red.

“This is not a rosy picture,” says Chief Financial Officer Mathilda Crosby. “Even before we start looking at spending requests, we are looking at a $39.4 million dollar deficit.”

Shelby County Mayor Harris thinks a property tax increase is out of the question. “Shelby County residents pay the highest property taxes in the state.”

He proposed cutting all departments by two and a half percent for the rest of the fiscal year, meaning June 30th. That failed.

“Our major focus moving forward should be to avoid layoffs. And we should do everything we can to avoid layoffs,” said Mayor Harris.

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You won’t get any arguments on that from County Commissioner Lee Harris. He’s seen the figures, seen how tax money has dried up because of the coronavirus pandemic. He voted against the budget cuts last time, but Monday might be different.

“It’s back on the agenda for Monday and I think the tweeks are worked out and we will be able to move forward with some of these cuts.” But it won’t be pretty.