Memphis Council Agrees To Job Cuts In Budget Battle

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(Memphis) Hundreds of people packed city hall over Memphis' budget battle, and it's also hundreds of people who will lose their job when the battle is over.

City council approved cutting 400 jobs. Three hundred positions won't be filled when people retire, and another one hundred will get pink slips.

Memphis Police and Fire departments make up the majority of the city's budget and face the most job cuts.

For years, both departments argued to hire more workers, and now council members want to know why they signed off on hiring more police officers while the number of them patrolling the street remains the same.

“If the police department is determined to have to cut employees, those desk jobs should be cut,” said Councilman Jim Stickland.

City Council members say the department hired administrative workers instead of street cops.

Some say those jobs should be the first to go.

The council signed off on Mayor A C Wharton’s plan to cut jobs last night, but the mayor won't say where those cuts should be made.

“We've got a police director. We've had the precise discussion. It wouldn’t be right for me to go in. I'm not an expert in that field,” said Wharton.

Wharton says after the budget is finalized, the police director will give him a recommendation of whom to cut, but it will ultimately decide who stays and who goes.

Workers don't just face layoffs.

The city won’t restore a 4.6 percent pay cut employees agreed to two years ago to prevent layoffs.

“It sends an extremely bad message not only to our employees but to the citizens of this city. Our credibility is at state,” said Councilman Myron Lowery.

Lowery tried to get the money back, but his idea failed because of a tie.

The council's 13th member missed the year's most important meeting.

Lee Harris didn't vote because he's out of town on vacation, leaving his office and possibly the wallets of city employees empty.

On the phone, Harris told News Channel 3 he expected the budget battle to be settled by now so he planned vacation and chose not to cancel.

The city council will continue budget debates Tuesday, with a deadline rapidly approaching.