During the last 72 hours they've been doing more than just burning the midnight oil at Memphis City Hall. With at least four different proposals emanating from Council members, the competition to find the best solution to secure a majority vote on one of them on Tuesday has grown as hot as a June summer.
"We've done a great job of cutting. Now I believe it's time for us to reinvest in Memphis," said Councilman Harold Collins.
Battle to balance Memphis' budget
Two of the more astute minds on the Council have been crunching the numbers and checking them twice, to finalize what they'll separately present at Tuesday's crucial budget session. In conversations with Fox 13 News on Monday, both Edmund Ford Jr. and Harold Collins touted proposals that were alike in one important area of restoring the 4.6 percent pay cut to city employees, but with different bottom lines in addressing the city's financial present and future. Due to new information he received, Collins announced an alteration in his earlier plan to set aside more than 10-milllion dollars for payment on the city's debt service.
"We were told that we had to have a payment for debt service for 2015. Then on yesterday, of course after hearing different scenarios, we find that that's really not the case," said Collins. "Now realizing we don't have to do it, my budget now proposes to go down to $3.31 cent, which is less than he proposed budget that many people are looking for."
Besides restoring the 4.6% pay, Collins plan provides for 10 million to add to city reserves and using employee attrition, not layoffs, to generate savings.
"For us to layoff one hundred people, knowing full well that the Unified School system is laying off over 200 to 300 people, that would be devastating to our economy," added Collins.
Similar to Mayor A C Wharton's proposal, Ford adheres to the idea of 100 layoffs and 300 employees the victims of attrition. But, he prioritizes addressing debt service, building reserves and improving the quality of life. In the latter regard, his proposal seeks to increase the number of code enforcement employees.
"We lost about 30 percent of our code enforcement officers and if we don't have enough then we don't have enough eyes in addressing the blight issue," said Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. "The certified tax rate is right now $3.36. That's the equalized tax rate on the $3.11 that we had. After putting our house in order and consideration of the restoration of the 4.6., we will still be one cent less than the certified tax rate."
Yet, no matter whose plan comes out on top, you know who you're going to find on the bottom?
"We're gonna raise taxes anyway. That's gonna be the order of the day. How much we're gonna raise taxes? We just don't know," predicted Councilwoman Janis Fullilove.