Shelby County Commissioners call on mayor’s office to lift hiring freeze

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — It’s been almost two months since the Shelby County Commission approved an operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

The commission is dealing with a hiring freeze and still trying to figure out how much money they can spend on county services.

County commissioners adopted the hiring freeze on July 13, and they’re still waiting on a budget book from the county mayor.

The budget book shows commissioners what the county needs and how much they have to spend. It’s a valuable tool, especially during a pandemic.

County officials claim the budget book is on the way and ahead of schedule, like years past.

“We were just ahead of the ballgame by delivering the budget books the first week of September, as opposed to what has occurred in recent years, when the budget books were not delivered until late September-early October,” Shelby County Chief Administrative Officer Dwan Gilliom said.

The commission wants the county mayor to lift the hiring freeze.

Most commissioners believe they need to hire 24 more people to do the county’s business, but they have no idea if they can do that because the mayor’s office hasn’t given them a budget book, and they have no idea how much money they have to spend.

“I’m not fussing at the administration or anybody here, but we have got to work as a team, and the most important thing that commissioners do is approve a budget,” commission chair Mark Billingsley said. “I don’t have a budget.”

“Really we’re at a point where we might as well cancel the hiring freeze altogether, and if we’re going to do that, we need to call a budget session,” commissioner Tami Sawyer said.

After nearly a half-hour of discussion, the commission voted 11-1 to spend the money and hire those two dozen people.

Commissioners hope they don’t have to continue to walk in the dark much longer.

“At the end of the day, when we start adding more and more things, it’s gonna have a price on it,” commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr. said.

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