VOL. 129 | NO. 127 | Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Council Moves Toward Pension Changes
By Bill Dries
Two weeks after approving changes in health insurance plans for city employees and retirees, the Memphis City Council meets Tuesday, July 1, to talk over a companion set of changes to the city’s pension plan for employees.
Memphis City Council members hear more Tuesday, July 1, about proposed pension plan changes for some city employees.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Council members get a report in an 11 a.m. executive session from Segal Consulting of Atlanta, the actuary firm the council hired to give it advice and guidance on the changes proposed by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
The committee session is expected to last at least three and a half hours, with no vote on third and final reading of the ordinances until the council’s July 15 meeting.
The plan would switch newly hired city employees and those with less than 10 years on the job to a defined contributions plan similar to a 401(k) retirement plan. City employees critical of the changes counter that city employees don’t contribute to Social Security and thus don’t get the Social Security benefits that private-sector employees get at retirement.
Meanwhile, at a 10:15 a.m. committee session, council members will talk over a resolution that would fund a $1 million, one-year transitional “safety net” for city retirees who may not be able to afford the changes in health insurance benefits or get coverage on the market. If the council approves the resolution, the Wharton administration would have two months to come up with rules and regulations for use of the safety net fund.
The resolution, sponsored by council members Edmund Ford Jr. and Myron Lowery, is the only indication of change on the council’s Tuesday schedule connected to the insurance changes approved two weeks ago.
Days after the June 17 council vote, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said he hoped the council would undo or take back the health insurance changes.
Armstrong fears the changes will accelerate an exodus of older, more experienced officers from the ranks and make it harder to recruit new police officers.
But Armstrong is also part of the administration that recommended the changes to the council.
It’s not the first time Armstrong has parted company or expressed reservations about the position coming from City Hall. Most of the time, it has been about the impact of City Hall’s financial moves on the ranks of the police department.
In the week after the vote, Wharton was quick to point out that Armstrong got a new class of police recruits out of the controversy instead of taking an $11 million cut to his budget, which had been the administration’s other alternative.
By week’s end, Armstrong’s comments about the council undoing its decision had faded.
Union leaders from the Memphis Police Association and Memphis Fire Fighters Association were instead pursuing the near certainty that they will file suit in Memphis federal court over the changes if the council follows through with approval of the pension changes in two weeks.
Police union leaders were also pushing a boycott of Greater Memphis Chamber member businesses because of the chamber’s stance in favor of the insurance and pension changes as necessary to stabilize the city’s financial condition.
Savings from the health insurance changes are connected to pension plan changes and funding the city’s pension liability, estimated at $551 million, with the city’s annual required contribution toward that liability estimated at $78 million. The city currently contributes $20 million annually.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.
Follow the meeting on Twitter at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, with reports earlier in the day on the pension plan discussions at City Hall.
On the council’s agenda for a vote Tuesday is the 450-room hotel Elvis Presley Enterprises wants to build at Elvis Presley Boulevard and Old Hickory Road, north of Graceland. The hotel-resort would be the third-largest hotel property in the city by room count and would include meeting rooms, a conference center, and a restaurant and lounge.
With council approval, Graceland plans to formally break ground for the planned development in August during Elvis week, the annual commemoration of Elvis Presley’s death in 1977.
Two other planned developments are on Tuesday’s agenda – an office complex at Forest Hill-Irene Road south of Winchester Road by Dan Walker Associates Inc. for funeral services, a hotel, an animal hospital and indoor and contractor’s storage, as well as an outdoor storage lot by Ross Hamilton at Whitten Road and Captain’s Rite Cove.
Council members also vote on a $14.2 million transfer from the city’s capital budget pay-as-you- go sewer rehabilitation fund to a project replacing the raw sewage header at the city’s Maynard C. Stiles Wastewater Treatment Facility.