Shelby County considering roughly $10 million in budget cuts due to COVID-19

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris is proposing roughly $10 million in budget cuts due to the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy.

Officials said more than 12,000 Shelby County residents are unemployed, which means the county can’t collect nearly as much money as it normally does.

“The stores are closed,” County Finance Director Mathilde Crosby said. “The stores that are closed can’t pay their rent, and their commercial landlords can’t necessarily pay their property taxes.”

Currently, the proposed cuts would be spread evenly among all departments except for the sheriff’s office, emergency management, community services and health services. Those departments are exempt.

“We should try to spread the pain among as many divisions as possible,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said. “Try to get everyone in the same boat to tighten their belt.”

For now, the mayor’s administration is confident the departments can do that without laying anyone off. Still, a number of elected officials are concerned and claimed the mayor’s proposal caught them off-guard. 

“If we had additional time to look at our budgets, I think that would be helpful,” County Criminal Court Clerk Heidi Kuhn said. “I think we felt blind-sided.”

County commissioners are split on the mayor’s plan. In a meeting Monday, two votes on the proposal ended in a tie. It was a disappointment to Chairman Mark Billingsley who wants to take action now.

“We always tend to eat the hamburger today and pay for it tomorrow,” he said.

A decision on the proposed cuts will now have to be made at a later date. The mayor’s plan also asks all departments to stop spending any money until June 30 unless it’s for essential reasons.

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