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Mayor's plan to close $80 million budget gap is 'a lie,' according to council member

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Millions of dollars in sweeping cuts to city government had Memphis City Council members firing accusations at the mayor's office Tuesday. Millions of dollars in sweeping cuts to city government had Memphis City Council members firing accusations at the mayor's office Tuesday.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Millions of dollars in sweeping cuts to city government had Memphis City Council members firing accusations at the mayor's office Tuesday.

One council member said the mayor's assertion that efficiencies will close the $80 million budget gap without a tax increase is an outright lie.

"Pretty much straight out of PFM's [The PFM Group] report," said Chief Administrative Officer George Little, who presented the mayor's five-year strategic plan to the city council. It includes 41 cuts across the board, including public safety job cuts.

"We're going to be looking at a 40 to 40 cent tax increase and that's not how I want to leave this office," said Memphis City Councilman Reid Hedgepeth.

Hedgepeth doubted the proposed plan would balance the budget without a tax increase.

"Quit saying we've got 80 million in efficiencies. We're going to do it through efficiencies. There ain't gonna be a tax increase because that's a lie," he said.

"He may be realizing the council does not have the will, in fact, to tow the line on the types of cuts that will have to be made in order to resist the urge to raise taxes in future years," said Little.

Council Chairman Jim Strickland and Hedgepeth said the mayor will likely wait until after his re-election bid in 2015 to announce a tax hike.

"Where there's a will, there's a way. The Wharton administration simply does not have the will to implement these efficiencies," said Strickland.

"The mayor has been very clear on his statements," said Little. "He has a five-year plan and a process through which he wants to work."

The proposed cuts are a moving target.

Anything can change before April 15, when the mayor presents his budget.

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