Council votes to cut 400 jobs, keeps catering budget - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council votes to cut 400 jobs, keeps catering budget

Posted: Updated:
City council members did not vote on a budget but they voted on plenty of amendments, including 400 jobs cut through layoffs and attrition. City council members did not vote on a budget but they voted on plenty of amendments, including 400 jobs cut through layoffs and attrition.
Tuesday night, Councilman Jim Strickland proposed eliminating those "extras" to help cut costs. Tuesday night, Councilman Jim Strickland proposed eliminating those "extras" to help cut costs.

(WMC-TV) - As the Memphis City Council spends hours deciding on a way to solve the city's budget crisis, appetites are sure to grow. Everyone has to eat right? But who should be paying for it? Action News 5 learned the taxpayers are footing the bill for catered meals during city council meetings. But not all council members agree that should be the case.

The catering budget for the Memphis City Council is $8,000 per year. It falls into a category of "Extras" and totals more than $415,000.

Tuesday night, Councilman Jim Strickland proposed eliminating those "extras" to help cut costs. The council voted 6-6, meaning the proposal filed.

Now, the city council is explaining why your tax dollars should help fund those extra costs.

Tuesday's meeting was long, but productive, according to Councilman Myron Lowery.

"I've been on the council for 22 years and I've gone through some tense budget meetings," he said. "This one, by all standards, was a good meeting."

City council members did not vote on a budget but they voted on plenty of amendments, including 400 jobs cut through layoffs and attrition.

But when Councilman Jim Strickland proposed cutting $415,000 in "extra costs", it did not go over so well.

"Yes, they do not add up to much money," Strickland said about the $8,000 the council spends each year on catering its meetings. "But when you're asking the tax payers to pay 20, 30, 40, 50 cent tax increase while the council eats free, it doesn't not go over very well."

Lowery said the budget for the council is approximately $300 for lunch.

"In $300 we feed 13 council members and 13 staff members. Plus others who come in," said Lowery.

Lowery spoke out against the cuts at Tuesdays meeting, arguing that catering is vital to keeping meetings productive.

"The $8,000 that we spend on lunch is indispensable. We were here yesterday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. We had to have a snack during our seven hour meeting. We could not leave or take the time to leave for dinner or for lunch," said Lowery.

But what about the other $408,000 in "extras" spent on seminars, travel, dues, and memberships?

"We return more dollars to the city because of our travel than we spend. And various programs support that," added Lowery.

Still, Strickland says it sends the wrong message.

"And I think that that's a legitimate concern on the public's part because if they feel that we can't even cut things that are wide open, what else is in this budget that's not being cut that should be cut?" he said.

A few items from Tuesday's catered meal include meatloaf with gravy, turnip greens, squash and onions, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread, and cobbler.

Action News 5 was told at least four council members voluntarily pay for their own meals each year.

Powered by WorldNow