Memphis City Council passes operating budget - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Memphis City Council passes operating budget

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

(WMC) - The Memphis City Council has approved next year's budget, which includes cuts to employee health insurance benefits.

It took all afternoon and most of the night, and a lot of angry current and retired Memphis City employees with plenty to say, but in a 7 to 5 vote the Memphis City Council approved the more than $617 million budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

It includes Mayor A C Wharton's cuts to health insurance for employees and retirees. The insurance premium increase passed by the council is 24 percent, not the proposed 54 percent.

Council chambers overflowed with people standing and even spilling outside. Council members heard from widows of police officers killed in the line of duty, officers injured not able to work, city firefighters and a lot of angry retirees who wanted to keep all of their insurance benefits with no increase.

There was talk from some of a lawsuit, and even the specter of bankruptcy of other cities, hinting Memphis needed to make changes now to stop the financial bleeding.

City council member Janis Fullilove called Mayor AC Wharton a coward for not attending the council meeting. However, Wharton did make a statement following the meeting.

"For those on the receiving end of those cuts, we regret that. But it's for the good of the city as a whole," said Wharton. "There's pain in all levels of government."

The council also did not raise the property tax rate, it will remain at $3.40. The council approved a surcharge for smokers involving insurance and a carve out, which means city will not offer health insurance to employees spouses who have it at another job.

All of this is an effort to get the city back in financial shape. These changes will not do it, but council members say it is a step toward that.

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