Health care premiums for city employees could shoot up 57 percent under current proposal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis City Council members are facing some tough issues as the mayor’s office proposes getting rid of a pension plan deficit by  increasing  employee insurance premiums by 57 percent .

“We are not in a position where we can do nothing. The plan is not adequately funded. The plan has remained in a deficit. The only way to eliminate that deficit is to reduce costs,” Memphis Human Resources Director Quintin Robinson said.

They plan to do that by passing more of the costs on to city workers. It may be the city’s administration’s solution, but some city council members gawked at the idea.

“What if a resolution came to cut the administration’s salaries by 50 percent. You would go through the roof, but that is a possibility. You want to balance the budget on the backs of workers and retirees and that is unfair,” Memphis City Council Member Joe Brown said.

Some people say  the steep premium increase didn’t even go before the health care committee, though the city says otherwise. Union members on the committee say they never had a chance to counter the proposed increase.

“Active employees have not had a pay raise in five years. So over the last five years insurance premiums have gone up and a 57 percent increase would be huge,” Matthew Tomek, who sits on the Health Care Committee and is with the Memphis Firefighters Union, said.

The health care increases are to help fully fund the pension plan,  something the  state requires. Some council members are concerned about non-essential projects being funded by the city  when money is tight.

That led the council committee to delay providing $6 million in funding for the expansion of Shelby Farms Parkway.

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