It's a good thing Memphis can steal from its employees and retirees to pay for all this! Sure wouldn't want businesses to leave by asking them to pay their taxes!
So the Council screams that the city is "broke" and there is no other option than to cut retiree benefits... then after a week of negative publicity concerning their decision to eliminate retiree benefits they magically find 2 million dollars in the Cigna healthcare fund that is surplus. If there is 2 million dollars surplus in the fund then the city is overcharging employees on their premiums right now. How much will that surplus be once current employees premiums are raised by 24%? And that 2 million dollars should be divided up and given back to all city employees in the form of a rebate. Not held by the city and used as blackmail! Ed Ford knows he made a politically damaging decision to cut retiree benefits and this pitiful attempt to "help" is only political cover for him. The employees won't stand for this Mr. Ford. You've won your last election in Memphis.
Agreed. There are more choices than raising taxes and cutting services. Les, your buddy AC has the most top heavy administration Memphis has ever seen! Tell AC to eliminate about 100 to 200 of his crony appointed positions. Cut back on the free handouts to businesses via EDGE.
Every year, AC presents his budget to the City Council. The budget is made up of all taxes collected and is split into the Capital Improvement Fund (CIP) and the Operating Fund. All city services and personnel costs come from the Operating Fund. This year AC gave MORE money to the CIP fund than the Operating Fund KNOWING how difficult the budget was going to be. The CIP funds are used exclusively to support and help the business community. Here's an idea, freeze the CIP funds and use that money to shore up the pension over the next 3 years. Other cities in budget crisis have done this. Once the pension is 100% (btw it is currently at 85% funded which is very stable according to every economist) then you can use money for your little "pet projects".
One thing is clear, employees did not create this problem, the city administration did. The city did not meet the required ARC payments to the pension during the recession. The city also raided the retiree health care fund to help balance the budget (the city took 25 million out of that fund 2 years ago)!!! Here's some other ideas: privatize sanitation, keep police and fire on pensions and move all other city employees into 401k's, audit every business that has taken PILOT's to see that they have honored their agreements (number of jobs filled, jobs filled by Memphians, etc...).
#1 - Who in their right mind would want to work as a police officer in Memphis for a 401a (which is worse than a 401k because your employer can change their contribution whenever they want), no SS, and no retiree healthcare? With these changes, those officers caught in limbo with 11 to 25 years on the job have no reason to retire (especially since the DROP is being cut down to just one year). These officers will remain in their jobs until they reach Medicare age. Thus already stagnant promotions will become non-existent! There will be a logjam of Majors and Lieutenants who won't retire. Currently it is the norm for an officer to ride in a squad car for 10 to 15 years before they have a chance to get promoted to Sergeant. These changes will push that timeline further because there just won't be any openings.
#2 - With no retiree healthcare, no one will stay 25 years except those that are vested in the pension now. This department will have trouble even finding qualified applicants willing to apply! Dallas PD offers better pay, benefits, and pension, and they still have to travel across the entire country to find qualified applicants.
#3 - Here's another scenario under no retiree healthcare. Any officer injured on duty who is not able to work anymore would receive no medical pension, just whatever money they had in their 401a, AND they would have to pay their own health insurance. I could easily see an officer getting shot and paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, and having nothing to show for it but a minuscule 401a, no SS, and No health insurance. It's not worth the risk to your wife and children. Every single officer I know with less than 10 years on the job is already applying for jobs elsewhere. I foresee several precincts being closed next year due to manpower shortages and a huge problem finding qualified applicants to apply. Waivers will need to be issued to people with questionable criminal histories just to fill up a training class (if we ever have another one!)
The logical answer is for the City Clowncil to pass a resolution (or whatever it is they do) to allow zoo overflow parking on the grass during the spring/summer months and let the parking fees of those vehicles go to a fund for the park. Why not? We know the Clowncil loves to wade into park controversies (Forest Park anyone?) As far as the shuttle to and from the Overton Square parking garage? I'm sure the politicians would LOVE for somebody to actually USE the garage! You know, after the politicians said it was vital to the area (and now sits virtually empty everyday) and used millions of taxpayer money to build. I for one live in the dreaded suburbs but we love to come to the zoo at least once a month. We have needed to park in the grass several times due to the crowd. But if we know we will be turned away at the gate because 4 protesters are blocking parking on the grass then I won't even bother burning the gas to drive my family to the zoo. I sure as heck won't park in the garage and wait 15 to 30 minutes for a shuttle (to the zoo and back). Leave it to the park hippies to create a problem that was non-existant for twenty years.
So Jeff... you want a full service police department that dispatches officers to every call and fender bender. I understand, that's the way we've always done it. But we did it with 2,600 officers. Now there are around 2,200 officers and we're losing officers every week to retirement and resignation. We have had a hiring freeze for almost 2 years. In 17 years on the job i have had only one opportunity to take a promotional test. Luckily I scored extremely high and passed however plenty of my friends did not and are still answering calls every day in a squad car. By the time they get a chance to take another promotional test they might have over 20 years on the job! Is that what it's like in the "private" world? Morale is already low with manpower shortages on every shift and our great Mayor threatening our pensions. Every officer I've talked to with less than 10 years says they will leave if they get switched to a 401K. Now there is a media smear campaign against the DROP program (which actually saves the City money!). Take away the DROP program and 2 things will happen: Either people will suddenly retire once they get 25 years on, leaving MPD scrambling to replace them, or people won't retire and will stay for 30 or 40 years. That would create a logjam of upper management and there would NEVER be hope of promotions. But I'm a realist and there's an old saying that rings true here: "You get what you pay for". Apparently Memphis wants the cheap Wal-Mart special type of police force and they will get the kind of applicants willing to work for that.
In all honesty, this report shows just how strong the pension fund actually is! You have to remember that the City has only contributed 20 million to the pension fund each year, well below the ARC. While virtually EVERY other city in TN raised their ARC contributions towards pensions during the recession, Memphis did not. Memphis instead wasted taxpayer money on public/private ventures and gave tax money away through PILOT's and EDGE. Memphis actually contributes less to the pension than its employees pay into it! So, with all this in mind, it's amazing the pension is only 467 million behind! At 81% funded it is considered "healthy" by every economist around. If the City will just man up and start paying its fair share into the pension (and the worst President in US history gets replaced) the pension fund should be at 100% within the next 5 or 6 years.
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By John Klyce Minervini
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