Commissioners vote to lay off 100; sheriff angered - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commissioners vote to lay off 100; sheriff angered

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Shelby County Commissioners voted to lay off 100 county employees Wednesday and lower the county's property tax rate.

With Wednesday's vote, the Commission closed next year's $24 million county deficit.  In addition to the hundred layoffs and four dollar property tax rate, Commissioners added a moderate storm water fee for unincorporated Shelby County residents to generate $400,000 next year.

Commissioners also cut employee pay raise and imposed a hiring freeze, reduced the cost of operating East Shelby County Library, and lowered Juvenile Court's budget increase.  They also voted that any surplus in the budget must to go to the pension fund, which lost a great deal of money in the volatile market.

"It's like the boy with his finger in the dike. Eventually it's going to break," said Commissioner Steve Mulroy. "We've cobbled it together today, for this year rather, without really looking at long-term at what our real issues are with education funding with the Health Department and planning a real move to shrink county government.  So what we ended up with is a slightly modified version of the administration's original proposal for 100 layoffs and for a tax rate at $4."

It will take 60 days for commissioners to figure out which positions they will cut, but they expect to cut 32 sheriff's office jobs, something that angered Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell.

"You're talking about really cutting into the muscle of this organization," Luttrell said.

According to Luttrell, Wednesday's County Commission vote to cut 32 jobs from his office does not match the community's top priority: Fighting crime.

"It could mean a slower response to 911 calls," he said. "A slower response to an alarm call person's requiring assistance.  It could require slower response to serving warrants.  It could mean any number of things.  It could impact court security."

Luttrell added that schools would not be immune.

"It could impact safety in our county schools because we have officers' presence in our county schools as well," he said.

Sheriff Luttrell plans to make an appeal to the full County Commission during the final vote Monday, and if they vote to cut 32 positions then, he'll make it a legal matter.

"It could very well land us in court because I think state law is very clear about cutting the sheriff's budget, and this is cutting the sheriff's budget," he said.

Luttrell said the public's safety should not be based on a mathematical equation.

"What really frustrates me about this is that they've taken a really complex issue with the county budget and they've applied a mathematical formula to it," he said.

Luttrell is encouraging concerned citizens to come out to Monday's meeting to let their voices be heard about cuts to public safety.

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