MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “I’m not going to say its a game of numbers, but it’s about the numbers. Numbers and priorities,” Stan Bey, who joined the Memphis Fire Department six years ago, said.
He’s now fighting more than fires. He, like thousands of other city employees, are battling a budget deal forcing them to pay more for healthcare.
In an over-packed city council meeting, members approved a plan forcing families of current city workers and retirees to pay a lot more. Some retired employee’s families who were paying $350 a month, may now end up paying $1,300 a month.
Tuesday, Mayor Wharton said there wasn’t a better option.
“If we didn’t start making some drastic changes at this juncture I tell you what, it wouldn’t have been a question of what about bankruptcy, it would have been when?”
But city employees say now they will be the ones going bankrupt.
Brian Holb said, “I started trying to put together an exit strategy. The vote yesterday solidified that for me.”
Holb said when the Memphis Fire Department recruited him it made a lot of promises, but the city isn’t fulfilling them. So now he’s quitting.
“People were brought in on this job. Fire department specifically, with the understanding they were going to be taken care of in their old age.”
Holb is thankful he’s able to make a career change, but he’s worried about tens of thousands of retirees who are seeing their benefits severely slashed.
Mayor Wharton admits the plan isn’t perfect, but called it a new reality.
“Nobody is going to be thrown out on the street without healthcare. It’s a new day, not only for retirees. The whole world of healthcare is changing for everybody.”