Council considers travel, meal expenses - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council considers travel, meal expenses

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - They cut millions from Memphis' city budget, but there are certain perks council members just won't give up.  In the toughest economy in recent history the Memphis City Council is looking closely at every dime spent at City Hall. 

"I think the public out there is struggling a lot more than city council members and city council staff. We've got to cut somewhere." council member Jim Strickland said.

One of the items on the chopping block is $47,000 in council travel and conference registration fees.  

"Economic development, ethics, and open meetings - things that we've been challenged already by the media," council member Wanda Halbert said.

Some council members argue that training received on such trips could save the city litigation costs in the long run.  Council Chairman Myron Lowery has earned a stack of certificates from the National League of Cities.

"I am a better council person because of the training and seminars that I've attended," Lowery said.

In the end, the council agreed to cut $20,000 in travel and seminar expenditures.  But the majority of them were not so willing when it came to giving up their meals during council meetings in City Hall. 

"Last night we ended at 11:00 p.m.," Lowery said. "We have to have food for the council and staff."

Not everyone agrees. 

"I just think in this day and time we can all pack a lunch and come down here and do the people's business and not eat like its Thanksgiving day twice a month," council member Kemp Conrad said.

In the end, the committee voted to let taxpayers continue to cater council meetings at an average of $300 per meal, or $7,500 per year. 

The Memphis City Council's Budget Committee has cut 6 percent thus far from the budget.  The full council will still have to vote on whether taxpayers should feed them and send them on training trips.

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