MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis City Council has already proclaimed Juneteenth as a holiday, but there are consequences of that decision that are still being sorted out.
The city council passed an ordinance declaring June 19 a Memphis holiday, but due to a technical error involving the fiscal year and a few financial details to consider, it was revisited Tuesday for presumably the last time.
With Memphis experiencing social justice protests and law enforcement reform in recent months, Juneteenth clearly has merit within the city, but it won’t come free.
“We estimate it to be around a million dollars, around $700,000 in expenses for the police and fire division as they earn a holiday check and then around $300,000 extra in overtime,” City of Memphis Chief Human Resources Officer Alexandria Smith said.
That’s no small cost, considering the city is already projecting a $4 million shortfall for its 2021 fiscal year budget.
Memphis is already juggling paid holidays, as one of only two cities across the country that provide employees with 13 annual holidays.
“We have a choice to make, whether if we substitute a different holiday for that or whether we choose, where council decides where they’re going to find that million dollars,” Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan said.
“In some aspects, a million dollars might not seem like a lot of money, but I assure you the only place that you would have to pull this money is out of an assigned fund balance,” Chief Financial Officer Shirley Ford said.
The council discussed multiple options, like making some holidays “flex days,” where employees can decide which ones to take off or swapping Juneteenth in and removing a different holiday.
The resolution passed unanimously to continue the discussion in the weeks to come of how a celebration of the freedom of African Americans in 1865 will be celebrated about 155 years later.
Juneteenth will be officially recognized as a holiday in Memphis starting in 2021.