Council members get earful on alternatives to health cuts for employees

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some came with a simple message, others with an elaborate budget breakdown, but they all came in support of Memphis city employees.

Victor Raspa pointed to one money saving solution. “We need to freeze the PILOT subsidies for 5 years. We are all in trouble. We are all in this.”

Raspa said freezing the program that gives businesses tax incentives to move or stay here would save Memphis $42 million dollars alone.

That’s almost exactly what changes to city employee benefits are saving.

Next year, another $30 million will be needed.

But some council members said current incentives are a done deal and they can’t go back on their word.

Other council members however pointed out that’s exactly what they’re doing to employees and retirees.

Stacey Chaudoin is married to an injured police office said, “Y’all can do graphs all day long. If y’all want money somewhere you can put it somewhere. And you should put it toward the retirees.”

Another popular Idea was budget cuts and more time for ideas.

Former city council members Carol Chumney and TaJuan Stout Mitchell suggested 10% cuts across every department saying it should net about $60-million in savings.

Carol Chumney said, “It seems that the cuts with the tax increase would spread this out amongst more people instead of just one group of people.”

Another idea is asking the state for more time to solve this pension crisis.

As of July 1st, governments in Tennessee must fully fund their pension programs within six years.

Stout-Mitchell added, “I think they may see that as reasonable. That you are putting good faith effort toward meeting your own plan.”

Others pointed to the mayor’s lengthy list of appointed employees.

Raspa said, “Weve got 400 political positions appointed by the mayor. A lot of the positions have $80,000 salaries and above each year.”

Some ideas were focused on keeping consumers in Tennessee instead of hopping the bridge to Arkansas and Mississippi.

Daniel Henry explained, “The city of Memphis has a ban on fireworks. We need to lift the ban off the fireworks and keep that revenue in Memphis.”

Councilmen Shea Flynn admittedchanges are needed to the PILOT program but said it is what brings big business and jobs to Memphis.

Flynn said with 10% unemployment in the city, it’s a tough call, “Revoking the PILOT program, there is risk there of companies leaving and losing a lot more jobs. It is a delicate balancing act. It is a very sever challenge. We are not done yet.”

Council members say they were impressed by the presentations and they also think people who presented Tuesday learned this budget balancing isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Man of presentations pointed to minor budget items that could be trimmed.

Council members said those look good on paper but they are dealing with a $78 million dollar funding gap, and they are looking for big picture solutions.

The Segal Company, a human resources consulting firm, found the city pension is underfunded by $467 million.

That contradicts a report commissioned by the firefighters union which put the number at $301 million and a report done by PricewaterhouseCoopers which put it at $682 million.

Recently, the city council voted to have current employees and some retirees pay 24% more for health benefits.

Other retirees could pay double of more for insurance or seek alternatives such as the ACA.



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