No Clear Path to Fund 4.6% Pay Increase For City Workers

(Memphis) Memphis city workers demanding they get 4.6 percent of their pay back may still have a chance, but it seems like the city council has no idea how it will fork over the millions to pay for it.

The decision to restore that pay cut failed in a six to six vote at Tuesday’s meeting, possibly because the tie-breaking voter, Lee Harris, chose to be out of town.

The 4.6 percent  translates into $16 million.

Councilman Myron Lowers says the board must re-vote Tuesday and approve the reinstatement of the money,. But when News Channel 3 asked him how would pay for it, he couldn’t provide a solid answer.

Angry City of Memphis workers packed City Hall during the meeting and are now sending letters to council members, demanding they get their entire paycheck.

Two years ago, workers agreed to a 4.6 percent pay cut to prevent layoffs.

The budget, due in less than a week, is already bare-bones.

It cuts 400 jobs, proposes pay-as-you-go trash services and possibly raises property taxes.

When asked what the council would cut to come up with the $16 million, Lowery said, “Wrong question. Let me tell you why. Because that’s the attitude many of the council members have.”

So News Channel 3 asked how he plans to cover the massive budget gap.

“Ah ha ha ha ha! Very good question! Increase revenues, that’s how you pay for it!”

“So raise taxes?” asked News Channel 3.

“Raise taxes or increase revenues,” said Lowery.

Lowery couldn’t provide an exact breakdown on how to raise $16 million in revenue.

He says putting up red light and speeding cameras around the city will help, but just how much, he couldn’t say.

Lowery also says the city will save about $6 million by making MLGW pay for and maintain street lights.

Councilman Jim Stirckland says the only way to restore the 4.6 percent is a huge property tax hike.

“Even with all the cuts we went through Tuesday night, we’re basically at a tax rate where we were last year. A $3.11 tax rate. Anything above this would mean a tax increase,” said Strickland.

For the issue to be brought back up at Tuesday’s last budget meeting, someone who voted against restoring pay cut must make a motion for a re-vote.

The budget on the table right now gives city workers 2.3 percent back in January, with possibly more to come next year if funds allow.

Lowery says returning half of police and fire employees money isn’t good enough and hurts the city’s credibility.

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