City leaders brainstorm how to balance Memphis budget

(WMC-TV) - Memphis city leaders remain divided on how to close the $31 million budget gap for the upcoming year.

Job and service cuts are on the table, as well as tax hikes. But now, a former MLGW board member says he has reform ideas that could balance the budget without cuts or tax increases.

Memphis City Council member Joe Brown says, "I am not in favor of any reductions in public safety."

Jim Strikland, the city council's budget chair agrees, "That should be the last thing cut. But I think everything should be on the table to avoid a huge property tax increase."

Jo Saino is a former MLGW board member and is calling for his reforms to the city's budget.

"I'd like to see the city do the right thing do the responsible thing." Says Joe Saino.

The right and responsible thing, Joe Saino says, would be to put Memphis and MLGW retiree health care costs in line with Shelby County's retirees. The difference, he says, would save $10 million alone.

The same goes for active employee health care coverage. For example, take MLGW's costs. Taxpayers are paying more than $13,000 per employee. That is more than $5,000 than Shelby County's employees.

"Memphis Light, Gas, and Water has been losing customers over the last few years and the city is losing people. This is unsustainable," said Joe Saino.

Reforming the paid days off policy could save millions of dollars if it is put in line with the private sector. The city and county employees get around 66 total days every year.

Saino believes this would be a great beginning to reforming and balancing the budget. He told WMC-TV that he is in touch with the Memphis City Council about his ideas and some have gone on record in support of these ideas for the new budget. There are two more months before a budget is required on June 30, 2012.

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