Mayor Wharton, city council clash over proposed library closings

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - In order to cut the city's budget, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton proposed closing some city libraries.

Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland had a bone to pick after seeing two libraries on the chopping block.

"My first reaction was disappointment," Strickland said.

The council received a letter from Wharton Tuesday laying out his budget proposal.

"Very similar to what Mayor Herenton proposed last year," Strickland said, "cutting services that directly effect the public."

In addition to the Riverside and Overton Golf Courses, Wharton proposed closing the Highland and Cossitt libraries.

"Libraries took a huge hit last year," Strickland said.

The mayor also proposed public safety cut.

"This has a public safety element to it that even Mayor Herenton didn't touch," Strickland said.

Some council members said the cuts were tough to accept because they think the administration is being paid too well.  They also said they do not understand why the mayor would keep an eight percent pay raise for employees during a recession.

"Mayor Wharton took it off the table several months ago," Strickland said, "and as a result we're seeing a situation where we're seeing cuts of services to the public."

Strickland said this should be reversed and salaries should be cut.

Wharton said the council paid $700,000 for an efficiency study that proposed the library closures.  He also said the pay raises were approved before he came into office.

"They idea of closing the libraries did not originate with me," Wharton said.  "I'm not proposing any raises."

Wharton said he is still optimistic the budget will be balanced.

"I'm about making progress," Wharton said, "not headlines."

Wharton has proposed the cuts.  The council still has to vote on them.  They have until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, to iron out the differences.

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