Memphis taxes unchanged, employees and retirees pay more under new budget

Read the 2015 budget here

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are threats of lawsuits after the  Memphis City Council passed the operating budget for the next fiscal year Tuesday evening.

In addition to eliminating subsidies retirees receive for health care, the cost of healthcare will go up for current and retired employees.

Hundreds of people showed up to share their concerns about the budget, particularly concerning health care and pensions.

People spilled into the hallways, an overflow room was even set up.

Each person who wanted to speak had to fill out a card and were limited to two minutes.

Around 100 people signed up to speak.

Many wanted the council to delay the vote.

City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert tried, but her amendment failed.

In a 7-5 vote, the council voted in favor of a budget that includes Mayor A C Wharton’s plan to cut retiree and current employee health benefits, but keeps the property tax rate from going up.

He said the money saved will help the unfunded pension and increasing healthcare costs.

However, Mayor Wharton wasn’t at the meeting.

Instead, his CAO George Little addressed the council.

Several council members expressed their concerns about Wharton not being there, and even Councilwoman Janis Fullilove called him a, “coward.”

Wharton addressed the media in his office after the meeting.

He said he’s been open and transparent with people and the council and he’s happy with the approved budget.

As for not being there, he responded by saying he didn’t want to, “get into that drama.”

Wharton said he didn’t want to raise property taxes because that would hurt city expansion.

However, former employees are so angry about the budget, they are threatening to sue.

Some retirees stormed out of the meeting fuming and yelling “the city screwed them.”

They also fear this will hurt the city in the long-run, because, “future, hard-working officers will go to other cities with better benefits.”

Council members passed an amendment to drop the premium health care increase from 57 to 24 percent for both current and former employees.

They also approved an amendment that if a person smokes cigarettes or cigars, there will be an additional surcharge.

Also, the city will no longer offer health insurance to spouses if the spouse can get insurance through their own job.

“We are going to court,” said Memphis Firefighters Association President Thomas Malone. “What this did is it forced retirees to be out of the city’s insurance and go try to find [another insurance] that they can’t get, because they have pre-existing conditions, or they are going to have to pay [thousands] to pay the premium.”

One retired MPD officer who served the city for 33 years and was shot three times during his duty said he won’t be able to find medical insurance, “because of pre-existing medical conditions. I won’t find it. I won’t. I have already tried.”

The city’s attorney told the council during the meeting they were “on solid legal ground.”

Some councilmembers claimed if they didn’t do this, they would be forced to increase property taxes.

“This is not happy. This is not a scare tactic. This is not something anyone who gets elected into office wants to be doing, but those are the options,” said Councilman Shea Flinn, who also said there was no “magic option.”

The city council did not discuss whether to change the pension plan to a 401K-style plan.

WREG is told they will likely discuss that in the next coming months.

Unlike the budget, there is no deadline to change the plan.

By law, the council had to pass the budget by the end of the month.

Voting in favor of the budget was Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Edmund Ford Jr., Reid Hedgepeth, Myron Lowery, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland.

Bill Boyd, Joe Brown, Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert and Lee Harris voted against the budget.

Harold Collins was not at the meeting. He told WREG he was out of town for a prior engagement.

48 comments

  • kay

    Thanks MPD and MFD for what you did and do every day for the citizens of Memphis. If morale was not at the lowest point it is now for sure. Sad story, if you can leave Memphis, do so now. ASAP

  • Janie Noe

    We knew Wharton would get his way…If he was forced to cut his pay, pay more out of pocket expenses, and then pay more for insurance he would hurt a little, but since that will never happen!!! He has 2 or more pensions already he is fleecing the taxpayers and yet no one dare suggest he is a the sneaky snake that he is….Well citizens you will get what you pay for …you think you have crooked cops now??? Just wait no one will want to work for this city and they will lower the standards once again ..we will have low life’s policing low life’s …. i can’t wait to get out of this city

  • wendy foster zuniga

    I just really believe now that the workers should see that they are the only ones that can change this to a better outcome. Its not just the people who live here in our city. Wether be good or bad! In all reality, the bad situations body our citys revenue. Bonding, court costs, tickets, citations, fines in all areas to any governed agency where a fine can be imposed should be.
    Look true enough i and many others fall short of the glory of God and no man is perfect. But we are human. People change the atmosphere changes the world turns 24Hours a day. We need to take corrective action the correct way to build revenue. The only way it can be built is by us alone. We all must leave mary poppins land shit happens and ive learned to respect that saying because you know what shit really does happen.
    Only the city workers can change that. I believe that when they stop neglecting whats mandated by the position they hold and seek the revenue they will see more funding for thier issues. And that dont mean forcefull or more negligent that means diligently and with compassion you never know, you might face a bad situation yourself! Do your job correctly and assertive hey who knows you might meet some intresting intresting people .

  • Fed up with you

    Doesn’t Obamacare cover folks with pre-existing conditions? Working people all over the country have seen their premiums sky-rocket and not seen a raise in years. Boo-hoo to you. The private sector workforce has been tightening their belts for years, it’s time for gov’t workers to do the same.

    • Sacrificed

      Just don’t call 911 when your house is fully involved or your asphyxiating from smoke inhalation because more than likely the fire station nearest you will be closed down due to budget cuts or lack of man power. Exaggeration? Nope. It’s already happened. Is your life worth the sacrifice?

    • blahblahblah

      I have to agree. My premiums have skyrocketed ever since Obama came into office with the threat of this crappy healthcare. I hate the fact the firefighters and police get shafted all the time like they do, but I don’t like it when EVERYONE doesn’t pay their fair share. They do chose those professions. Its not a secret that they do not pay very well, but I think they should get much better benefits than they do. There are non-essential/less-essential jobs they could cut or at very least cut back on.

  • ButObamaSaid

    But Obama said insurance premiums would go down $2500 dollars. One more lie from the a President who aid we could keep our doctors. Under Obamacare smokers premiums are 50% higher than non-smokers. Now back to the real world instead of the lies that are force fed to this nation. I know of 2 firms large firms that promised retirees they would be insured for life under union rules and contracts. Then the retirees were told they must go on Medicare and the companies would pick up any costs that Medicare didn’t pay. Now they are told they will be given an annual stipend to buy coverage that picks up any costs that Medicare doesn’t pay. This gap coverage can be bought from such places as AARP, the organization that Endorsed Obamacare. These same two firms also had pension programs but now have 401k’s.In the real world government rules and regulations were what was causing premiums to skyrocket in the first place. Tort reform was not to be had since the lawyers, which many politicians are, need their millions suing for every injury known to man. How can premiums be skyrocketing when we were promised our new Marxist healthcare would lower costs. I have an idea, maybe the employees can get subsidized like the Federal Employees. Or how about just being exempted like the unions and politicians are. You see under Obamacare you are MANDATED to get the insurance the Federal dictators tell you buy or be penalized. Just wait until all the delays Obama has illegally implemented kick in and you are going to see some real screaming about the costs of this garbage program. And just think under Obamacare the least expensive policies the insurance companies will pay 60% of the cost and we the people will have to pay the other 40%. Lets see how that saves anyone from bankruptcy when they owe over $50 thousand for some surgical procedure. The people that elected these DEMOCRAT socialists deserve everything that befalls them. Hey if you don’t like what is happening then join the military, get on the VA plan, and die on some waiting list so the employee can get their bonus for meeting their quotas.Now lets be sure and keep those Democrats in office in the November elections.

    • blahblahblah

      You know Obama is and always has been a liar. why should the local government be any different.

  • Bill

    When I’m elected Mayor, 10 things WILL happen.

    1. Cut 10% of the City work force
    2. Reduce all 6 figure salaries to 5.
    3. Freeze Property Taxes for my term
    4. Have rolling Curfews for high crime neighborhoods by Zip codes.
    5. De-annex Hickory Hill and Cordova.
    6. Stop the Minority requirements for City bids.
    7. Create a City Department that inspects all Rental properties(like a home inspector) for renters. The fee is paid by the Landlords.
    8. Vacant properties are taxed at 2X the current property tax rates. Vacant means an occupancy rate of less than 80% per address for a Calendar year.
    9. Reduce the MATA routes by 50% and make Tuesdays a ride free day for all Memphians.
    10. No new development contracts for Developers.

    • Low Profile

      Unfortunately, BILL, even if elected, you would fast find yourself knocking your head against the brick wall that is (and will most likely continue to be) an inept, dysfunctional (and in some cases in need of therapy/treatment) city council. The entire administration needs an overhaul, a replacing, from the top down. We keep getting stuck with the same bad eggs, over and over. Too many people fail to think before they push buttons in the voting booth to subject themselves to the same old same old. The adage is true: People get the government they deserve.

      • Bill

        I’d pull an Obama, I won’t ask, you’ll do what I tell you to do City Council. If they don’t understand that message, I’ll lock the doors on their offices.

    • Joe

      Sounds like you want to make us declare bankruptcy like Detroit. There’s no magic plan that only some average citizen with no govt experience knows, we just need to stop losing high dollar citizens and companies.

  • allfedup

    To “Fed Up With You”, does your health insurance refuse to cover your spouse???? Funny how now the city employee will have coverage and even the step children will have coverage but the mother or father of those step children will not…..what’s wrong with that picture. The city made a PROMISE when hired now they are going back on that promise…..do you think that what they passed yesterday solved anything? Next year will be even worse because of their ridiculous spending habits so where do you think the money will come from then??? The employees are all tapped out, only resolution I see is to raise taxes in an election year…..

    • Terrie

      I agree w/you about it being unfair BUT, I heard they wouldn’t cover insurance for spouse’s IF they were working and could not get insurance at that work place.

  • Ed

    Didn’t take away a.c.’s 1200 dollar a month Cadillac with his 100k a year driver did they. What’s he gonna buy next month with the money they just stole from the workers. another 80 million dollar boat dock or another ball park.

    • Low Profile

      We don’t have elected officials. We have little mob bosses. What we need is the political equivalent of a J. Edgar Hoover.

    • jaded

      ummm… I don’t know how much the Cadillac is but his “driver” is his MPD security guard-I don’t think officers make 100k a year. If they did they would certainly deserve it in this town though!

  • takenobull

    Next week the City Council will approve millions for another ball stadium or attraction on Beale street etc. Government is suppose to take care of streets, employees, infrastructure, and the common sense stuff first. But we broke because of millions spent on things like Mud Island and the Pryiamid that were worthless. Don’t forget buying the ball park lol where only the rich can afford to go. And who is the city council? Drunks and folks who cannot run their own house holds.

    • Joe

      Yea lets not invest in any entertainment venues, then watch our city’s wealthiest taxpayers (you know, the ones who are really paying for our schools) leave because theres nothing attractive about our city. Way to think that one through…

  • Terrie

    I say again “IF Wharton would get the crooked people out of the offices running this city then there would be LOADS of money to fix these problems from the salaries he’d get back!!”

    • Low Profile

      Hate to bust your bubble, but he’s part of that good-old-boys club too. He’s just like Herenton, only his grammar is a little better.

  • Rick

    The Mayor and the city councilmen that voted for this, should be ashamed of themselves. They have mismanaged this city and found themselves in a pension deficit. Their solution is to raise the premiums on the workers without taking any responsibility for their actions. The good Mayor could give up some his perks and monies to take part in the “tough decisions”. No way will he cut his throat. The mayor and everyone on that council should be replaced. It’s their decision making and the previous administration that has put this city where it is. Wake of citizens of Memphis and pay attention of who you vote for.

  • Thisaintit

    It amazes me how ignorant people compare gov employees to the private sector. They are totally different. A contract is a contract. This is not right—-period! I am so ashamed of the people ruining our city. They must go. Sad part is when this place is totally messed up, those who helped get it there will be long gone enjoying their lives and laughing at the rest of us.

  • D.Slayer

    They will need to add money to the budget for a MFD and MPD recruit class. They are going to need it!!!!!

  • CJB

    It’s time to turn off the AC…….he doesn’t give a flip about the citizens of Memphis……All he cares is his son and wife and himself and nobody else…..that’s why he chose to sit in his office and watch the meeting from his office bc he knew he would get roasted

  • GoodCitizen

    “One retired MPD officer who served the city for 33 years and was shot three times during his duty said he won’t be able to find medical insurance, “because of pre-existing medical conditions. I won’t find it. I won’t. I have already tried.”

    Why should any police officer or fire fighter put their lives at risk when they know that the City of Memphis will not take care of them? I really can’t say that I can blame emergency responders if they take less chances in their daily duties.

  • John G

    This is my last comment on this.I think you should do with about half of the city depts. especially the so called Code Enforcement because it usually takes them 3-6 months to even respond to a complaint about a residence and then when you find out who is over the complaint you cant even get them to return your voice messages especially the one at Hickory Hill office.You can try and call their supervisior and to complain about the lack of service from their employee
    and you cant even get him/her to return your message,you can even send the so called good Mayor of Memphis a Email
    and you can even get him to respond back not even one of his employees will respond to it.You can imagine who is not going to get my Vote the next time.I would vote for Super Willie before I will AC.

    • canadianwhiskeygirl

      wIllIe herenton??? sure, lets yoyo. get mad at wharton, vote hIm out, put wIllIe bak In, get mad agaIn at wIllIe, put ac bak In!!! LOL

  • Lisa

    I can say with complete confidence that even if AC Wharton’s life depended on it, I WOULD NTO VOTE FOR HIM!!!!! And if his house catches on fire….good luck getting a truck there before it burns to the ground and definitely don’t call the police because they will not be coming EITHER!!!!

  • Lisa

    I can say with complete confidence that even if AC Wharton’s life depended on it, I WOULD NOT VOTE FOR HIM!!!! And if his house catches on fire….good luck getting a truck there before it burns to the ground and definitely don’t call the police ever because they will not be coming either!!!

  • Spikeit

    Won’t be popular but here goes; Policemen and Firemen CHOOSE the profession. Yes, thankful they are there but what’s the profession got to do with medical and pensions? Nothing. Times change and as a retiree from a local MAJOR shipper, they did away with our traditional retirement and put everyone in a 401K, NO CHOICE. Our medical copays have gone up tremendously in the last three years. Wasn’t long ago I paid MAYBE a $30 copay for an MRI. Today it cost ME $1000 oop. I know retired MFD ee’s haven’t had a COL in 4 years. At least you have that clause and hope that one day you’ll get another to help offset your costs. When a person retires from this MAJOR shipper, there are NO raises, period, even though COL increases. I feel little for city retirees paying more for medical because they’re NOT above the rest of the working class. Welcome to the real world. City ee’s have been on a gravy boat for many many years but times change and so must the city, so must the ee’s. If you don’t like it, move, because to a degree taxpayers are paying for policemen who are worse then those they’re supposed to be protecting us from. Yeah I know. who are you gonna call and wait until your house is on fire and blaaaa blaaaa blaaa. Whatever. The city is finally doing something that should’ve been done many years ago, cutting the gravy.

    • Rick

      I am Not A city employee or retiree from the city. So basically your company screwed you and you feel everyone else should get screwed too. I don’t think anyone should get screwed like that. What you failed to realize and like so many others on here that’s seems to be happy that they are getting screwed is this city council and the Mayor are the very ones that put the city in the predicament it’s in, not the employees. Why are you and the rest of these people not upset that they make poor decisions everyday? I bet your company’s upper management didn’t suffer any loss, just you and your coworkers. Memphis has a define pension benefit which is required to be fully funded by law. Ask yourself, how did this become under funded? What did the city leaders do with the funds? Yet you and a lot of other people on here could care less that they are bad leaders and only see that they are fixing a problem they caused in the first place on the backs of the very people that provide for this city. Yes there are some bad and lazy employees in the city just like any other company. The majority are hard working dedicated people serving this city. They cant control the idiots running things. One more thing is the Mayor giving up anything or the city council giving up anything to help? Hell NO!!! They screw things up and act like they are solving the problem by sticking it to the people that have the least. Now go ask them to contribute something to help in this? I bet they laugh in your face.

  • Lisa

    I never liked Memphis really anyway and based off the political climate here, it is really time to get out of dodge because Memphis is surly on its way to being the next Detroit.

  • takenobull

    well this has ruined me. the cost of my city health insurance is now 2/3 of my retirement pay.

  • james k taylor sr

    u notice most in the room where white,this is a raciest thing thing.i but they still get free lunches.
    ur services is going to go down because they won’t be able to find people to hire

  • me

    I paid a traffic ticket at 201 poplar today. Doesn’t make sense. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people there. The judge handed out fine after fine. Yet the city has money problems?

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