Memphis City Council cuts free food, travel to save money

(Memphis) As police and firefighters worry about benefits and pensions, we uncovered the city’s top dogs are giving back too.

The Memphis City Council is now brown bagging it.

After years of taxpayers complaining about their catered meals, council voted to do away free lunch.

The council heard a lot from city employees, especially fire and police officers, complaining the council is balancing the budget on the backs of hard working employees.

Chairman Jim Strickland wanted to show the council is making a sacrifice.

Tuesdays can be long for Memphis City Council members.

Committee meetings are in the morning and the big chamber meeting is in the evening.

In between, there will now be changes.

“This year it’s all brown bag,” said Strickland.

There will be no more free lunches and the council is doing away with its travel budget.

“You can’t expect employees and retirees to take a hit, when you’re eating free food,” said Strickland.

The meals cost taxpayers about $300.00 each time they’re catered.

Cutting meals and the travel budget saves about $30,000.

Strickland said, “I’ve said for years, even before this year’s budget, that taxpayers should not be paying for the council members’ lunches or travel. I think because of this budget crisis, it opened the eyes of some other council members and they agreed to it.”

The money saved from the lunches and travel budget goes to help shore up the pension fund.

Some council members contend the savings is only symbolic, and does nothing to help the big picture.

“When you look at those things and people might say what is their sacrifice, if it’s a $50 million problem. A $30,000 cut here will not solve the problem,” said Ed Ford, Jr., Council Member.

The council also reduced other expenses in the office.

All of those savings amount to just over $55,000.

Strickland admitted that’s not a lot but says it shows at least they’re making a sacrifice.

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