MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The head of the Memphis Police Association says cops are being used as pawns by Mayor A C Wharton. Earlier this week the mayor said he is considering layoffs that will include police and fire departments. The police union's president, Mike Williams, says if taxes are raised to avoid the layoffs people will blame cops and firefighters.
Mayor Wharton says laying off cops and firefighters will be his last resort. The two groups have been left alone for years since they deal with your safety. This time things are different.
Ali Payne has lived in the Cooper Young neighborhood for about a year and a half. She loves the neighborhood, but with one exception.
"My car was broken into," she said.
She owns her home. She pays the highest property taxes in Tennessee. Yet Ali Payne says her choice of having to pay taxes or get rid of some police and fire fighters is simple.
"I'd like all the firemen to keep their jobs and the policemen to keep their jobs. And they've been really good about patrolling the area."
Just across the street, Memphis Light Gas and Water employee Gerard Artis is working away. That's the key, he says; people need to be working.
"I'd rather have a tax increase. I wouldn't want to see anybody get laid off from their job."
All this comes because Mayor A C Wharton says there's a deficit of more than $40 million, and with a new budget year starting in July, he must do something.
We asked the mayor, if you look at layoffs you have to look at layoffs in all departments and not exclude police and fire, is that accurate? "That's correct," Wharton replied.
Mike Williams of the Memphis Police Association doesn't buy it.
"The money is there," he said. "We're spending it in the wrong places. I think it's a money management kind of thing."
Williams says police and firefighters are being used as pawns in a financial chess game.
"I don't want this to be used as - you know, because of the police we need to increase taxes. No. You need to increase taxes, if that's the case, because you need to increase taxes. Stop using us in this political game."
The mayor is scheduled to present his new budget at next Tuesday's city council meeting. With possible layoffs of cops and firefighters and possible tax increases, this budget fight will be a hot one.