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Published on May 18, 2024
Shelby County Sheriff Clashes with Mayor Over Budget Cuts, Threatens Legal ActionSource: Google Street View

Shelby County is the battleground for a fierce dispute over the mayor's budget proposal that promises to raise law enforcement wages while slashing nearly 450 vacant sheriff's office positions. Mayor Lee Harris is standing firm on a budget that would hike pay for law enforcement by 6%, making them some of the best-paid in the area, without any increase in county property taxes.

However, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner is pushing back hard. He accuses the proposal of being illegal under Tennessee's "maintenance of effort" law, which protects his budget from cuts without his consent. According to Action News 5, Bonner warned county commissioners that he would sue if any positions are eliminated. The debate heats up as both sides brace for a legal showdown, with Sheriff Bonner calling the proposed reductions a danger to public safety. "We were blindsided like many of the other elected officials that were blindsided by this. To cut 441 positions from the Sheriff's Office - we can't live within that," Bonner told Local Memphis.

Community members share Bonner's trepidations, worried that fewer deputies could exacerbate rising crime rates. According to Local Memphis, resident Kelsey Shutze expressed uncertainty about the board's strategy stating, "More is better, not less." The Sheriff echoed these sentiments during a budget hearing on Wednesday, conveying that the staffing cuts at the aging jail, already stretched thin, would be unacceptable.

Despite the sheriff's protests, Mayor Harris remains resolute on the budget course. "This year's budget sets forth a path to give Shelby County law enforcement their highest raise in Shelby County history," he provided in a statement, emphasizing the importance of competitive pay for recruiting and retaining deputies. But as WREG reports, Sheriff Bonner is threatening legal action if the proposal passes, demonstrating how contentious this budget battle has become. It is now up to the county commissioners to decide whether to side with the mayor or the sheriff, with the deadline for budget approval set for July 1.