MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - At Memphis City Hall it almost seemed as though cats and dogs were living together. Council members met with city employee unions to talk about making sure workers keep getting a check and avoid layoffs or pay cuts.
People who get a city check had their salaries cut by more than four and a half percent last year. Since they live in the city, they know that there's talk of a property tax increase as well.
There are a lot of people who say just having a job is good enough. I was out of work for more than three months, and it's no picnic.
Memphis city employees have had pay cuts and now face a possible tax increase. The union reps told council members, there has to be a better way.
Some jobs don't make sense. When there are flames we run away; firefighters run right into the inferno. This is what they get paid to do.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he wasn't going to cut the fire department budget. But the Fire Director has a three year plan to change things, and it doesn't go over well with the firefighters union.
"There will be cuts to the fire department," warned Joe Norman, "There will be cuts to public safety."
There's disagreement on whether the changes will hurt public safety. Everything here boils down to money. Cities don't pay people with IOU's. The problem is when there's a big deficit, you don't want a paycheck to bounce like a basketball. You'd also, if you're an employee, want something in that paycheck.
Here's an idea from the firefighters union:
"One of the short term solutions that the fire union presented to the city council was alternative funding, such as alarm fees, response to auto accidents where the insurance company will be billed, similar to programs that other communities are using," Norman suggested.
Council members normally only meet with unions during contract negotiation time. To meet during budget talks is a pretty big deal.
There was talk about having businesses that have waivers from property taxes to kick in money for public safety. The sanitation workers union says one way to raise at least $3 million is to sell off surplus equipment.
That's not all.
"Reducing the number of managers between top level management and the people doing the work goes a long way," noted sanitation union rep Chad Johnson. "Not only to save money, but it goes a long way in providing better services. We want to minimize the number of people between citizens receiving the services and people providing the services."
The employees realize a lot of you might not care about their concerns, but they hope members of the city council care. Maybe a few changes might help them, and if the changes keep your taxes from going up, it might help you as well.