Wharton Looks To Alter Employee Benefits To Balance Budget

(Memphis) Memphis City Council members are basking in the calm before the storm.

In less than 24 hours Mayor A C Wharton will present his budget to the city council about how to spend your money.

The budget is tight, and one way politicians are possibly looking to save, is cutting funding to public safety by more than a million dollars.

Councilman Jim Strickland says the biggest point argument is city pensions.

“We are greatly underfunding our retirement plan. The mayor agrees with that, the union agrees with that, and we agree that. Where there is disagreement is what type of retirement plan we should have and how we can pay for it,” said Strickland.

The Mayor’s office is arguing with the police and fire unions over how much the fund is short, even though they all agree it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The mayor wants to switch to a 401K system, the unions don’t like that idea.

The council will make the ultimate decision and is waiting on its own study.

Wharton has also tossed around the idea of the city no longer paying for retiree medical care if those people can qualify for medicare or another program.

Right now, the city pays up to 70% of medical costs for retirees and some of their relatives.

Tuesday the council will also take up a plan to reestablish the Memphis Police citizen`s review board.

Last week, some community members asked what happened to the board and complained police aren’t being held accountable.

Council members want to know why the review board stopped meeting.

“The board doesn’t have any teeth to come back and give any sanctions, and so that`s one of the things we really need to be looking at. The push-back is the police department doesn’t want any independent group reviewing them and then reporting on their actions. They would rather police themselves,” said Councilman Harold Collins.

Tomorrow starts the near four-month budget process.

Council must approve a final budget by June 30th.

31 comments

  • Bill Geyer

    Joe, I don’t know who told you that a pension pays what your salary is when you retire, but you were badly misinformed. Do you even know how the pension system works? From your post, I would say that you don’t.

    • Joe

      Bill…..ever hear of back loading? look it up…..its rampant among municipalities and its been slowed down but not stopped….thats how they get to those numbers

      of course, you wont here a union guy on here talking about that….nosireee

  • Bill

    I’m running for Mayor in the next elcetion. I’m going to do 10 things in my first term. One is cut the City payroll by 10%, no 100K jobs will exist.

    • 1midtownmike

      Herenton & Ford Sr. wanted to make Memphis a black city and a black city it has become. The blacks who voted because of race have noone to blame but themselves.

      A tax base left because of arrogant racism and that base is not coming back. Deal with it.

  • Sparky

    Well I see Joe is spreading his liberal BS again. What an idiot and a tool! Too bad he doesn’t work within the city government. Let the powers that be; take away what is contractually binding then promote business failures with his money. That’s not going to happen to old Joe because Joe couldn’t count past his digits. In order to grasp the magnitude of impact on these individuals that are servants of the citizens of Memphis. You have to understand economics and the math behind the pension. He has no clue. Nor does the average citizen. So therefor, spread the lies about the apocoliptic pension monster and they all run from it. Break the contract and leave. What the citizens do without the MPD, MFD or the majority of the devices they have now? Future of these are stake here not just what Joe is spreading.

  • Marsha Owens

    Hey, … I hope, at least, everyone knows there isn’t any way on God’s green earth the city can get current with the current pension scheme’s funding requirements. It just can’t happen.

    You’ve had a bunch of knuckleheads running Memphis for the last 20 – 25 years who been very irresponsible, especially in the areas of employee benefits and retirement plans.

    Truth be known, if the State of Tennessee hadn’t got in the City administration’s mug, nothing would be getting done now. The State told your City record keepers their financial statements are bogus because they weren’t accurately reflecting their pension and OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits), aka retiree medical benefits.

    This is sad, folks, because there are retirees who will likely have to pay much more for their insurance coverage, and may even have their pensions reduced. For current employees, there are likely to be major changes to the retirement plans they will retire under.

    It’s a lousy situation, folks, brought about by the ineptness and irresponsibility of the people who have been running the City for the past 20 – 25 years. There is no one else yo point the finger at.

  • John T. Dwyer

    In August of 1973, I was sitting in a classroom at Armour Center and was told the following:
    “As a police officer, you will not become rich on this job nor, should you expect to. You should expect to render 25 years of dedicated service to this city and it’s citizens. You will do so in an honorable and straightforward fashion. You cannot be late for work and you cannot be expected to take off sick because you are just tired. People’s lives depend on you being on duty and being there when you are needed. This job is a calling and if you cannot follow this course in your career…there’s the door. If you can follow this course..the only reward will be a simple pension paid by your citizens to let you live comfortably in your waning years. You can also expect to have their unspoken gratitude. The words Courage, Knowledge and Integrity are on every imprimatur of the Memphis Police Department. Your measure as a police officer, and as a man, will be measured from now on out by those words. The badges and name tags of several others you follow are affixed to a plywood board in the museum. They died in the service to their fellow citizens. You owe it to them and Almighty God to do your best! ”
    I happened to be the fool who asked about Social Security being paid and was told in no uncertain terms, “NO!” I asked if I could pay into it and was also told in no uncertain terms, “NO!”

    I retired with the thought that my pension would remain intact and enough to live without want. So many of my fellow employees do not. They have had to take demeaning part time jobs to simply survive and keep their insurance. I could not afford insurance for over 20 years. This year I got coverage by the affordable health care act.
    If you want to compare public versus private job experiences/benefits, I’ll be happy to share some of mine with you.

  • D. Phillips

    What is Memphis’ problem? It’s always we don’t have the funds. You don’t have a tax base here because people can’t find viable sources of income. Why does International Paper and Fedex don’t pay property taxes? This town is the next Detroit, there is no leadership in City Hall this city is finished. Keep messing with the 1st responder, you will find yourself with no emergency personnel.

  • Ricky

    “Backloading” must be something common out west, i.e. California, where politicians explode/inflate their pensions. Nothing of the sort exists here for the lowly first responder. We leave with 62 percent of our pay after twenty-five years. When Wharton cuts our retiree healthcare, we’ll probably leave with an adjusted 54 percent because of those cuts from good ‘ol A.C. and Little.

  • Marsha Owens

    There are many reasons why this pension funding problem exists. Some are:

    – First off, the City has not made the required contributions to the plans for several years. This caused the problem to mushroom.

    – The administration implemented some very expensive plans to reward their cronies who were appointed to City positions. Remember the “fully vested in 12 years” plan for appointed employees??? An example of the cost … is your very own Roland Mcelrath, who retired from the City under this deal and is now drawing a salary from MLGW of about $140,000. There are more like that if you want to dig a little.

    – You also have legions of Police and Fire personnel drawing disability pensions, under very little scrutiny, … with some working a different job with the City and drawing a City salary.

    – The city did nothing to “encourage” retirees receiving medical insurance to sign up for Medicare as their primary coverage. The County began this initiative a few years ago after some prodding by some local government gadflies.

    – In addition to the above, … until very recently there was no interest by your City administration to evaluate different alternatives for the retirement and insurance situation. Because of this lack of initiative, the changes will be much more painful to plan participants than if they had been ushered in over the past 10 years, or so.

    You have the current group of knuckleheads hanging around city hall to blame for this, as well as the previous Mayor and his posse of knuckleheads.

    They can’t ignore it any longer. The State of Tennessee is demanding they get the City’s financial house in order.

    • d wilson

      There is no one to my knowledge getting a Line of duty disability and working for the city. If you retire and come back to the city, your pension stops and you go back on payroll. Now Wharton is drawing his shelby county pension, while he is the mayor of memphis.

      The disability pension has to be approved by the 3 city appointed doctors. Not your doctor, the city doctors. Then the pension board must approve on top of the city doctors. The city can and does put people back to work that are on disability. The city hired an auditor last year and he reported only a few that could be put back to work. The city just isn’t handing out disability pensions.

      Medicare, was not paid by city employees until about 1990. People hired after that date will get on medicare. Those hired before the date can not get on medicare and the city must cover them. The city a few years ago was going to back pay for medicare for those employees, but I don’t know what happen to that plan.

      The city pension plan is not the problem. The problem is all the money the city has to spend on other items. City invest in private investments, but doesn’t see any of the profit from those private investments? What a great deal, we get the city to put in money or match ours and we keep all the profit. Or they tell the city they will hire employees only to use a temp company and they pay $8-$9 an hour. More profit made off the taxpayer and the workers. Let not forget that Sears project will have apartments that will be managed by Kemp Conrad’s company? Don’t you wish you could vote on projects that will help your company make money and he isn’t the only one.

      • eagleeye

        If you had worked a second job as I did for almost 25 years, you would have social security and medicare

  • takenobull

    I remember years ago Mayor Herenton said if you don’t like the direction Memphis is going get out. The smart ones did and are now paying their taxes in better ran communities.

  • takenobull

    fear not we may not have paved streets or city workers but we will have a ball field for the rich

  • Whatever !!!

    All I know is certain ones have to pay cuz y’all keep voting these monkeys in. Kind of like you get what you pay for.

  • Joe Norman

    Actually, the pension for a 25yr employee is 56.25%. The employees pay more into the pension than the City does. The City only contributes 3% of the general budget to the pension fund; no windfall if it is eliminated.

    Your 401k supplements your Social Security. There is no Social Security for City employees. IN this instance, a savings account only.

    Unless it’s your desire to have a bunch of senior citizens coming to your rescue, there is a reason Firefighters, Police are able to retire early. Fighting fires and chasing criminals and a young person’s job.

    Get the facts – http://WWW.MEMPHISPENSION.ORG

  • Tony

    Well Joe know your FACTS. The city of memphis hasn’t paid in to the pension fund in years not 5 or 10 or 20 years. In fact they have pulled money out of the fund 10 million for the Bricks on main in the 70’s 10 million for the pyramid, and i’m sure others I’m not aware of. The Fire and police have paid 7and 1/2 % of there pay checks to fund the pension plan. In the 70’s when it was well over funded, the city saw that money and seized it. They used it for paying on the job disability’s, and still do today. The city council got on the pension system, the Mayor’s CRONY appointees were put on the pension system. The city hasn’t put one dime in the pension system in decades. The pension system has SAVED the city MILLIONS in disability they owed and still owe. Would you call that THEFT? The city doesn’t pay Social security, so what do they pay. NOTHING!!!! Get your facts straight.

  • d wilson

    Well joe I am a retiree also. I am also a business owner, not really a small business either. I know a little about the private 401k and SS. As a retiree I don’t receive SS when I turn 62, 65 or 72. We didn’t pay into it as you do in the private sector. Some of us hired before the 1990s did not pay into medicare either. So we don’t get medicare or will not, unless we worked another job where we paid in enough qtrs. This was the city’s plan. Pension and no medicare, because the city will handle it. The city saved and continues to save money with its pension system. Any private company would love to have the pension system the city has. Only have to pay 3%-5% over the last 30 years and not match SS or medicare. If you worked another job, which some people do, over their lifetime and pay in enough qtrs to SS, you can only draw about 50% of what the private person draws. A police or firefighter that leaves at 25 years receives about 55% of their base salary. There is no such thing as backloading. (your refering to pensions up north, doesn’t happen here). So this is pretty easy to understand. Police and fire salary is about $52,000 x 55% = $28600 per year. Minus taxes, healthcare. Most stay to 28 to 30 years. 30 years get you 62.5%. There is hardly any raises to the pension, once you start drawing it. You may get 1% over 10 years. The city has some of the highest medical insurance around. I compare them to others fedex, railroad, ups. I know several employers that pay all of the employees healthcare? Of course all of these employers are using private insurance companies. The city is the insurance company. They pay a private company to manage it. The city only provides health insurance, no dental, not eye, just medical insurance.

    In the next breath you cry because they are so called double dipping? How could that be if there no other employers offering pensions, like all of the railroads (of which all are hiring), trucking companies, ups, AT&T, Budweiser, Caterpillar (also hiring in Corinth). If you pay into two pension systems, you can draw two pensions. It is your money. Just like you and anyone else is freely able to apply for jobs with pensions, be it a city or private company. The problem is most dont try to apply or they give up. Or they find out they have to work nights, weekends and holidays and they don’t want that lifestyle.

    Next you along with a lot of other people cry about the Unions??? Really the union? Union officials are just reg police and firefighters. We are to believe that some police, firefighters, plumbers, painters, mechanics, sanitation workers and etc out smarted city and professional labor attorneys hired by the city to negotiating a labor contract? Lets make this easier for you. No one forced the city to sign a contract or agree to a contract.

    I believe I know who this joe is and my offer is still the same. Challenge me.

  • florine reynolds

    No Insurance. No tags.$200 fine. Ck violaters every 6 mos. 2nd offense $500.
    Increase motorcycle patrol to ck for New City Insurance sticker.

    Flood city with new MATA BUS Schedules and increase route service.

    Get Grant to rehab blithe area Neighborhoods. Use minor offense, and other none violent offenders to repair areas.

    All Property owners affected by vandalism, fire and act of nature must be the responsibility of Insurance company only. Mandate a $1k fine for every 30days after the 45day work completion deadline of fire marshal inspection. After 115days a $5k fine enforced by the Health Department dems the Property hassardous/ unlivable. After which a lien is placed on the Property by the city enforcing a 30 day deadline For completion or possession.

  • Joe

    My primary focus was on police and fire…..considered to be the “untouchables” …..its my understanding that pension loading still occurs for police and firefighters…..and that their pensions are considerably closer to their ending regular salary….(excluding overtime)

    Looks like old Sparky above …..ahem…no doubt a firefighter…..was stung by my remarks

    I have relatives that fight fires….I know what they tell me…..and I’m aware of the risk…..but you signed up for that kind of work.No one forced you to. And its your pensions that are breaking the bank because we have to pay you for 30-40 years while you double dip elsewhere.

    So all of you regular city employees stand down…im aware what your pensions are……andit seems they pay you in spite of your general ineptitude…sorry but I’ve been around too many city employees who was a waste of good oxygen and who have that sense of entitlement

    Its police and fire unions that are as much to blame…..

  • Joe

    as a union guy, Joe….your words carry no weight with me….you are reading from the latest official copy of Union Talking Points

  • eagleeye

    If you do have enough quarters in social security, you will find out that since you have a city pension that the feds will take 2/3 of your social security from you. So you get screwed twice

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