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VOL. 129 | NO. 98 | Tuesday, May 20, 2014

City Council Reviews Fire Budget

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members resume budget deliberations Tuesday, May 20, in committee sessions that take up half of the council day at City Hall.

Most of the time spent in the budget committee, chaired by council member Lee Harris, will be devoted to a review of the Memphis Fire Department budget proposal.

The session devoted to city government’s second-largest division based on budget amount and personnel runs from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The City Council’s budget committee, chaired by council member Lee Harris, will review the Memphis Fire Department budget Tuesday, May 20. The fire department is the second-largest division in city government.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The council’s voting meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the action live on Twitter at @tdnpols.

Because of the budget season, normal committee sessions are being condensed into an expanded council executive session at 2 p.m. On the executive session list is discussion of an ordinance to establish a one-year pilot program for residential parking permits in the Overton Square area.

The proposal, mediated by council chairman Jim Strickland among homeowners and business owners in the area, is also on Tuesday’s voting agenda for the first of three readings.

So is the first of three readings of an ordinance that would change terms of the deferred retirement option plan – or DROP – for city employees that would pay them an incentive to schedule their retirement in advance, an effort aimed at helping the city better plan its personnel needs.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration wants to change that as part of a set of changes to pension and other retirement and health benefits options for city employees and retirees.

The changes are the administration’s game plan for dealing with an unfunded pension liability and an annual required contribution toward that liability that is below where it should be.

The exact numbers for the overall liability and the annual contribution, however, remain in flux following preliminary estimates the council received May 6 from Segal Consulting of Atlanta, the actuary firm the council hired to help it sort through conflicting dollar figures it has received from the Wharton administration and municipal unions.

Segal’s preliminary numbers put the city’s overall unfunded pension liability at $457 million, compared with the $709 million estimate by the administration and its actuary. Segal estimated the city’s annual required contribution should be $69.3 million, compared with the city’s call to increase its contribution to $100 million a year from its current $20 million a year.

No discussion of those numbers is scheduled for Tuesday’s council day at City Hall.

On the council’s agenda for a vote Tuesday is Greenbrier Partners LLC’s planned development of 21 lots for single-family houses on the southeast corner of Interstate 240 and Shady Grove Road.

In other zoning and planning items, there is a special use permit for a county cemetery on 44.4 acres at the northeast corner of Raleigh Millington and Duncan roads.

And at the 2 p.m. executive session, council members will consider a request by the West Tennessee Military Vehicles Collectors Club of Collierville for seven World War II-era artillery pieces that were once in Memphis Park, formerly known as Confederate Park.

The city would also work with the group to find a suitable public location for the artillery once it is restored.

The artillery pieces replaced Civil War-era cannons in the bluff top park after the originals became part of a World War II scrap drive. The World War II-era cannons were removed several years ago to make way for the Civil War re-creations donated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and have been in storage with the city’s General Services Division since their retirement.

The club, which is affiliated with the National Military Vehicle Preservation Association of Independence, Mo., would move the pieces, restore them and take care of the upkeep at no cost to the city. The group would publicly display the items as they do others from the era at no charge to the public.

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