Mayor's optimistic budget plan leaves some scratching their heads - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor's optimistic budget plan leaves some scratching their heads

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton surprised many Tuesday when he told a City Council committee his upcoming budget would include raises for city employees - not layoffs.

The announcement came just months after the mayor said layoffs were likely. So what's changed?

"I'm so interested to see the details because this is not what I expected at all," council member Jim Strickland said Wednesday.

Herenton explained Tuesday that revenue forecasting allowed his administration to manage a year-and-a-half decline, handle job vacancies carefully, and curb expenditures. But not everyone's convinced the budget will achieve the mayor's goals.

"If it was done in a correct and responsible manner then that's fabulous, but I mean we've still got severe challenges that are long term," council member Shea Flinn said.

There are possibilities: Federal stimulus money due to the city, as well as dips into the city's $88 million reserves. But, doing that could affect the city's bond rating.

"I want to know where he feels he can get the kind of resources that he needs," council member Harold Collins said.

Tuesday, Herenton would not answer that question.

"We'll give you all that information on April 21st," he told council members.

While his office wasn't answering questions, Herenton said Tuesday revenue forecasting allowed his administration to manage a year-and-a-half decline, handle job vacancies carefully, and curb expenditures.

Herenton's office steadfastly denies that his budget is politically motivated in any way, saying that it's an opinion the mayor simply disregards.

"In the meantime, he can avoid a two front war," Memphis Flyer political analyst Jackson Baker said. "He's gotta focus on his own personal legal situation. He doesn't need anybody unhappy with him that he has to work with."

University of Memphis Political Science professor Larry Moore says a sound balanced budget in tough economic times would do wonders for the mayor.

"With all the rumors that have been going around, this is an opportunity to come out and show real good leadership and real good thought production," Moore said.

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