MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There’s now a clearer picture for what it will take to restore benefits to police and firefighters cut by the city six years ago.
Mayor Jim Stricklad presented a plan to city council Tuesday for how the money from a sales tax increase should be distributed.
The mayor’s presentation outlined his initial thoughts for how he thought the sales tax referendum will be used, but members of the police association are concerned it’s not being used exactly in the way it was intended.
Last October, voters moved to raise the city’s sales tax by half a cent to improve public safety.
Some of the money generated would be used to restore benefits and pensions for both Memphis Police and Fire departments that were cut several years ago.
Collection of the extra half cent started in January.
Strickland outlined plans to city council for how to use the money generated for this fund.
He said the priority is restoring benefits to those public safety employees.
The mayor expressed concern that with reinstating these benefits, there could be a mass exodus among the 600 police officers and firefighters eligible to retire now.
He and other council members brought up the idea of using surplus funds for bonuses and other incentives.
Members of the police association said they will take a closer look at his plan but maintain the referendum is clear about where all the money should go.
“Maybe incentivizing people who can immediately retire to stay to get in a three-year drop, I think in three years we’ll be fine,” Strickland said. “I just didn’t want over the next 12 months to lose a lot of officers and firefighters.”
“The referendum says what the referendum says,.” said John Covington, member of the Memphis Police Association. “It is binding legally, politically and morally, so what it says in there is nothing about discretionary spending for bonuses or that kind of thing.”
Tuesday’s presentation was the mayor’s initial thoughts. He will make a formal presentation next month when he unveils his final budget to city council.
The referendum also states any remaining proceeds shall be used for street maintenance and/or pre-kindergarten education.