Council Members Consider Benefit Cuts as Deadline Approaches

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(Memphis) Memphis city council members will consider cuts to city employee benefits as they work towards a budget for fiscal year 2014.

“The fact is unless we want a 70% tax increase which I don’t think anybody is advocating for; we have to change something else. We can raise taxes or change the benefit structure,” said Councilman Kemp Conrad Monday.

Mayor AC Wharton’s staff proposed the possible cuts last week.

These include cutting one of 13 paid holidays and eliminating 75 sick days payout for all retirees, which would save $2.5 million. Other cuts include eliminating the college incentive pay and longevity pay.

“I do want to save the tax payers money, I want to drive down our tax rate as far as we can so I will give these serious consideration,” said Councilman Jim Strickland.

Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association, took to YouTube over the weekend to ask for support as council members consider the cuts.

Last week, the mayor’s staff warned of layoffs if the council decided to maintain the current tax rate of $3.11.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable at all that we are going to lay off 1000 workers, but I don’t think we are going to have to do that. We don’t have to cut 1,000 jobs to save 25 million from our budget,” said Strickland.

The mayor has said he does not support layoffs and stands behind his original budget, which would increase the property tax rate to $3.36.

The budget discussions are expected to fire up again Tuesday June 4th.

Councilman Jim Strickland said it’s unlikely council members will make a decision until June 18th.