Shelby County Mayor Luttrell proposes bonuses for county employees

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Wednesday he wants to give bonuses to employees, but some commissioners said taxpayers will end up footing the bill.

A Shelby County Commission committee passed a resolution Wednesday to give county employees $3.7 million in bonuses, after the mayor found an $8.7 million surplus in the budget.

"I think it's the right thing to do," said Shelby County Commission Chairman Sydney Chism.

Not all commissioners were in favor of the bonuses.

"I just don't think it's a wise use of taxpayer dollars," said Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas.

Luttrell proposed the stipends after the elimination for 46 positions, keeping jobs vacant, and higher-than-expected collections of delinquent taxes resulted in the surplus.

"We found $8.7 million after laying off people," said Thomas.  "Cut, cut, cut.  And now we're saying we want to use part of it for a bonus?"

"The employees gave more to the process of trying to balance the budget by taking a reduction," said Chism.

Thomas said the county's first order of business should be debt reduction.

"We could use that money to pay down the debt," he said.  "We could return it to taxpayers.  We cut some things."

Chism called the $3.7 million in stipends a drop in the bucket.  The county debt is $1.5 billion.

"It will make very little difference in our debt reduction by giving this stipend in a one-time situation," said Chism.

Thomas said if the money is not used for debt, it should go to county services.

"I think it just sends a confusing message to the public," he said.  "Who is more deserving than the county employees who made it possible for the services to continue in an upright manner?"

It appeared the resolution had enough support to gain final approval in the full commission meeting next Monday.  If approved, employees would get the money December 15.

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