Shelby Co. Considers Benefit Change For Employees To Save Money

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(Memphis) A change in benefits for Shelby County workers could cost employees, even into retirement, but it will save the county money.

Mayor Mark Luttrell is pushing for changes to the benefits package after one of the toughest budget battles in recent memory because next year isn’t expected to be any better, even after commissioners increased property taxes 36 cents.

Shelby County spent nearly $100,000 on a study to figure out ways to save money.

They came up with 50 recommendations and Mayor Luttrell says he’s going through those recommendations to see which ones they can do.

Forty percent of the budget goes to benefits, so that’s one of the places Luttrell is looking to scale back.

“The average employee that makes $50,000, $20,000 added to that is the cost of the benefits. That’s extremely high,” said Luttrell.

Luttrell says the national average is about half of that.

He says the county needs to scale back on benefits because of the rising costs of healthcare.

“It means restructuring. Maybe coming up with new retirement plans that are more fiscally sound. Nothing is worse than promising something to an employee and not having the money to pay for it,” said Luttrell.

Luttrell presented the initial findings of the study to commissioners Wednesday and the plans seem to be well received.

“We need to find a new home for Head Start. That will help us save dramatically,” said Commissioner Terry Roland.

Roland says shifting control of Head Start to a private group would cut about 500 employees from payroll.

Commissioner Melvin Burgess agrees with all the plans, but says it will be hard to accomplish.

“Hopefully we can work with what we have and be efficient, but it’s going to be very difficult and we’re going to have to tighten our belts and do what we have to do,” said Burgess.