Retirees say Mayor Wharton is flip-flopping on budget cut promise

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s been an emotional week for Betty and John Russell. John served 27 years on the police force, and now they’re scrambling to find out what to do about healthcare coverage.

When they watched the mayor’s news conference on WREG Tuesday and heard him say nothing is definite about these benefit cuts yet, their jaws dropped.

Betty reached out to us, saying, “Have y’all not seen this letter? Why is it not out in the news media?”

A letter dated June 27 was sent out to city employees and retirees mapping out their options for health insurance in the wake of these budget cuts.

John added, “It’s in black-and-white. It’s basically telling us what you’re going to do.”

It seemed pretty definite to them. They say the mayor is sending mixed messages.

But Joe Saino applauds the mayor on his recent budget plan. He’s a retired engineer and budget watchdog who says these cuts are long overdue, and taxes were not the right option.

“It’s still a tax and that’s not the answer the answer is to cut back.”

Some criticize Mayor A C Wharton for moving forward on big investments while the employees are dealing with this, but Saino says these are two different parts of the budget.

“The money for the capital budget is normally financed by bonds. You don’t want to be issuing bonds to pay off pensions that’s what bankrupted the city of Detroit.”

The Russell’s are hopeful a more middle ground option can be agreed upon that helps spread the hurt around, and not just on the public employees.

Betty said, “They just came in and said it’s over and that’s the scary part.”

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