MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Get ready to pay up. The Wharton administration says the city could end up $17 million short this year. Despite the money mess, the truth is the city hasn't stopped spending big bucks on pricey consultants.
Bosses at city hall knew this was going to be a tough year. There were pay cuts and layoffs. While the city was supposed to be down sizing, Mayor A C Wharton was still signing contracts hiring pricey consultants.
From figuring out what to do with Beale Street to solving the city's parking problem, the city has hired one consultant after another.
Bob Gammon has a quarter million dollar a year consultant contract with the city to make sure Memphis complies with the Americans with Disabilites Act.
There's a new Memphis Police Department consultant that costs $110,000 a year that is supposed to make the department more efficient. That's on top of a one and a half million dollar consulting contract to screen and select new police recruits.
Get the contract to watch over hiring practices for the Public Works Department, and you'll make $60,000.
There are two consultants on the Electrolux project, one being paid $72,000 to monitor diversity, another for $156,000.
City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert worries about all the money being spent. "I expect the employees should be doing the work and if they are not, what are they actually doing for the city?" she asked.
Ron Kirby is a retired city employee. He's collecting his city pension and now has a $120,000 contract as an environmental consultant.
Halbert noted, "To be allowed to retire and then come back, you are paying the same employee twice."
The truth is, Memphis taxpayers are paying through the nose for consultants.
City Councilman Shea Flinn said, "You don't want to see it become a gold rush for consultants, but you don't want to close yourself off from important information when you need it."
Consultants are supposed make Memphis operate more efficiently, at least that's what council members are told by the administration. But when asked if they're ever given proof of that, Councilman Jim Strickland replied, "Sometimes … different degrees of proof, I guess."
The truth is, the administration admits they have no way of knowing if all the money they are spending on consultants is money well spent.
The city's CAO, George Little, told abc24.com, "Up until this point we have not done a good job measuring outcomes once we've started an initiative. We've not gone back to look at what the end result as been."
Little says the city is working on that, but when it comes to spending your money, Strickland admits "The council needs to do a better job of holding the administration accountable for everything, not only consultants."
The city is short on cash. There may be a tax hike and the truth is hiring consultants doesn't sit well with many taxpayers who may have to dig into their pockets yet again.