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Why doesn’t budget belt-tightening make its way to Shelby County?

Proposal to trim $10 million does not pass, even though coronavirus is hurting local economy

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

In Monday's Ransom Note: being responsible.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out Shelby County is in for a tough road with the next budget due to the impact of coronavirus. Thousands of jobs cut, more to come. Hotels empty. The pension fund falling. Property tax receipts no doubt about to do the same.

So, when county commission chair Mark Billingsley and mayor Lee Harris asked directors and clerks to cut 6% for just the final three months, it seemed reasonable enough. 

After all, we're all belt tightening, so why shouldn't local government show some leadership during a national emergency and do the same? Except, no, in our community too often public service really means public “serve me.”

By a vote of 6-6, commissioners failed to mandate that county government, except for public safety and the health department, find $10 million to trim. This was unspent money.

Billingsley even offered a guarantee that no jobs would be cut or contracts not fulfilled. still the measure failed, and the county comes dangerously close to dipping into its rainy day fund more its own policy permits. Monday, chairman Billingsley called it a disgrace. it's hard to disagree.

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