Shelby County Commission considers amendments to budget

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Commissioners on Monday discussed the 2021 fiscal year budget, a budget that has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelby County’s mayor has warned about possible layoffs given a $39.4 million budget gap. Commissioners already shot down a proposed wheel tax that was estimated to generate more than $10 million.

Add in the COVID-19 pandemic and there’s another layer of complexity to take into account.

Discussions over the budget over the last few weeks have at times been tense, but for the most part Monday it was much more relaxed. 

As commissioners asked questions about proposals over the schools budget and there were several added amendments, including $550,000 for LeMoyne-Owen College for technology and communications, where they’ve seen a great need due to the coronavirus.

“I think we became increasingly aware of the digital divide as many students did not have access to internet in their homes and didn’t have computers and have relied heavily on us,” said Dr. Carolyn Johnson-Dean, president LeMoyne-Owen College. “They relied heavily on the libraries and when the libraries closed we loaned out all the computers.”

Other amendments included $100,000 to help some of the entertainment venues in the county, like the Hatiloo Theatre, the Hi-Tone, Minglewood, Levitt Shell and others to give employee and rental assistance for revenue lost due to COVID-19. That amendment passed.

“They were the first to close and will be the last to re-open,” commissioner Mickell Lowery said.

Another half a million dollars was also proposed to be part of the budget to fund the 800 Initiative to help women and minority owned businesses in partnership with Christian Brothers University. 

In the capital improvement budget, commissioners discussed allocating $6.7 million for Memphis River Parks Partnership for fiscal year 2022 and $4.5 million for Regional One Hospital.

The budget as a whole needs to be signed off on by the end of June. 

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