City Council approves pay raises for MFD, Animal Services; say m - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

City Council approves pay raises for MFD, Animal Services; say more time needed for MPD

(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

Memphis City Council committee members agreed firefighters will get a pay raise.

In the meeting, they discussed whether to veto the approved salary raise, but no one made a motion to pass the veto.

The veto therefore failed, and fire fighters will receive a proposed one percent increase in June, followed by a two percent increase in July.

"It's now time to at least give them some pennies while you're spending dollars on these other projects," Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone said.

In addition, Animal Services officers will also get previously agreed-upon raises, since not enough council members voted to block the previous decision. The department will receive between $80,000 and $146,000 next year.

"Their whole lives and careers, they've given their lives to this city,” said Malone. “Now they have all these ailments and are banged up and we're trying to keep them in our insurance in some form or fashion."

On June 15, 2003, two Memphis firefighters died in an arson fire at Family Dollar in Frayser. Lieutenant Trent Kirk was one of them. Monday was a difficult day for his widow, Donna.

"It was very emotional for me yesterday to know I had to come here and fight for benefits for these men and women who give so much,” she said. “They make a sacrifice every day. My husband made the ultimate sacrifice, when he went in to save a manager who actually started the fire."

She also recently felt the brunt of the city's health care reform when her daughter recently had a car accident.

"When I arrived at the emergency room, I'm trying to verify coverage on her and they kept telling me she didn't have coverage," she said.

She worked things out with the city to receive a subsidy for the rest of her life, but if Trent had lived, she could be dropped like everyone else.

Next year would have been Trent's 25th year on the force. Twenty-five years means retirement for city employees. Trent would have been under the age of 65 and a candidate to be dropped from the city's health care.

"Fire fighters do not get paid that much,” Kirk said. “Police officers do not get paid that much, but they were told they would have these benefits for when they had finished their job. The majority of these men are broken down. It's a very, very, very strenuous job."

Council committees previously approved a three percent pay increase for Memphis police officers. It is unknown whether this motion has passed.

In all, the committees approved eight union raises.

Pay raises are a hot button item that will be challenged by other budget priorities, such as the idea to extend a 70 percent health insurance premium subsidy to retirees under 65.

City of Memphis CAO Jack Sammons says this is a difficult time financially for the city of Memphis and its taxpayers.

"All businesses across America, in this new Affordable Care Act environment we live in, are having to make tough decisions,” Sammons said. “But we still have a Cadillac plan for all of our employees. We have an excellent health care plan.”

In committee on June 2, many council members supported the subsidy extension until January 1, 2017, when the city would be able to add a new high-deductible plan option for retirees who aren't yet eligible for Medicare.

Prioritizing the issues related to the budget will be the key to any and all progress made in Tuesday's meeting.

The council needs seven votes to approve the budget, which it must do by July 1.

"We're all in this together,” Sammons said. “We want to preserve the integrity of our pension and we want to not raise prices, so to speak, for our taxpayers. We want to run a business that is as efficient as can be and provide the level of service our customers expect. Safe streets are the number one priority."

Now that the firefighters and others have been given a raise, leaders say they need more time to find a way to give police a raise.

"We have employees sitting in this audience who have been injured to a degree of almost being crippled," Malone said. “We have some people who are homeless, well, that's where these people are fixing to go if you dump their insurance and they have to pay all this money for insurance and their injuries.”

Finding money in the budget proved not to be easy.

"There is a true cost to this, whether it is the real people cost these people are talking about or the tax payer cost, but address it honestly, not with trickery," said Greater Memphis Chamber Shea Flinn.

After more than five hours, the council was unable to pass the budget.

“We are looking for places to cut, and I think y'all know what and that is why y'all are not answering the questions,” councilman Jim Strickland said.

Many council members say there was not enough information from the administration to pass the budget Tuesday. A special meeting will take place on June 23 to discuss the budget again.

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