Wharton's 2012 budget includes layoffs, furloughs - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wharton's 2012 budget includes layoffs, furloughs

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's 2012 budget includes 125 proposed layoffs and a furlough strategy that will require all city employees - except those who took a 5 percent pay cut last year - to take 12 days without pay during the year.

Wharton announced the proposals in a letter to city employees Tuesday morning.

Later in the day, while addressing the Memphis City Council during his budget presentation, Wharton explained that 70 percent of the city's funds are spent on personnel.  That is why, he said, he is proposing layoffs, which will consist of real people - not the elimination of vacant positions.

All this comes, Wharton added, despite 23 million dollars in cuts across the board, including restructured debt, sold assets, and delayed projects.

Wharton pointed out to council members that in 2008, he asked them to restore an 18-cent tax cut that shaved $57 million dollars off of school funding.  But now that the courts are requiring the city pay back the money to the schools, Wharton said the city is stretched beyond its financial means.

"Without a permanent funding source for our schools, we are essentially now taking money directly from city operations to fulfill this obligation," Wharton said. "To put it more succinctly, school funding is coming at the cost of shutting down and shrinking the variety of services city government provides to local citizens."

Wharton said he does not plan to close libraries, and he plans to keeps job growth funds in place.

Additionally, he said, essential services like police and fire will not be affected.

Below is the complete letter sent to city employees Tuesday morning:

Dear Employees:

Later today, I will be making my Budget Presentation to the Memphis City Council for Fiscal Year 2012.  I am writing to regrettably inform you that included in this budget presentation are 125 proposed layoffs and a furlough strategy that will require all city employees – except those who took a 5 percent pay cut last year – to take 12 days without pay during the year.  More specifically, city employees will no longer receive pay for 12 of the 14 holidays on the city's calendar.

These layoffs will not impact public safety.

I feel a need to let you know personally how I have wanted to avoid layoffs.  I have shared this with many of you, including our labor unions and members of the Mayor's Employee Council.  Layoffs are particularly troublesome because I am distinctly aware of how employees within many departments and areas within city government have already been struggling to pick up the slack caused by vacancies and the lack of funding.

On the subject of furloughs, I am aware that losing 12 days a year in pay is a serious blow.  It was a difficult decision, but we have studied the furlough strategy taken by federal government employees and other government entities around the country, and we could not bypass this option, especially given that it would impact holidays. Seventy percent (70%) of our budget revolves around personnel costs – a point that has made these actions virtually unavoidable given the circumstances that frame our financial realities.

Moving forward, part of my message to the Council today will be regarding our need for sustainability.  We obviously cannot continue in this direction.  We must keep an eye toward the future in our budgetary processes.

Again, the news I share is regrettable, but I want you to know that I remain committed to doing all I can to advance our city by providing it with the best government possible.  

Thank you for all of your hard work.


A C Wharton, Jr.

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