The Memphis City Council voted today to approve the City’s 2018-19 budget, which funds improved public safety initiatives, new youth summer jobs, and increased programming in parks and libraries — all while keeping taxes level.
Today’s vote marked Mayor Jim Strickland’s third proposed budget to the City Council, which is tasked by City charter with modifying and approving the mayor’s proposal. It also marked the third consecutive year the City Council passed the budget with less than an hour of debate — a marked difference with marathon budget sessions of the past.
“This is a team effort,” Mayor Strickland said. “The way we handle the citizens’ business matters. We worked alongside the City Council, particularly Chairman Berlin Boyd and Budget Committee Chairman Edmund Ford Jr., to deliver a budget that improves public safety, continues our focus on core government services, reinvests in Memphis, and enhances our already strong financial position.”
Said Chairman Boyd: “Review of the City of Memphis budget is among the most critical responsibilities of the City Council. I am personally proud of the hard work and the considerable time and attention of my colleagues, whose thorough review of the FY 2019 request contributed to a successful budget season. The continued cooperation and collaborative partnership of the Administration has ensured the budget represents the best use of funds available to support the services expected by the citizens of Memphis.”
Said Budget Chairman Ford: “For the third straight year, this Council and the Mayor have been successful in passing the City operating and capital budgets with little contention. I’m proud of the work that this Council has done. This year, we’ve added more funding to support our youth, increased infrastructure, added public safety initiatives, and provided full-time employees a base salary of $15.50 an hour.”
The new budget (technically two budgets — a $685 million operating budget and $87 million capital improvement plan) and $3.19 tax rate take effect July 1.
Here are some of the highlights of items in the upcoming budget:
Public safety: The budget allocates $1.5 million for more Memphis Police Department manpower; funds two large or three mid-sized police recruiting classes; increases police service technicians; facilitates promotional testing, a key part of Police and Fire retention strategies; adds emergency medical personnel for Memphis Fire; and installs more security cameras across the city.
Infrastructure: The budget funds $19 million in street paving, which represents the third consecutive increase in that category. This is double what the City spent just four years ago. With this total, the City will pave more streets in three years under Mayor Strickland and this council than the six preceding years combined.
Benefit security and financial responsibility: The budget increases the City’s annual pension funding by more than $2 million, which represents continued progress toward meeting the state mandate for full annual funding by 2020. The $58 million is 92 percent of the recommended annual funding of $62.5 million. (As recently as 2014, the City allocated roughly only $20 million toward its pension.) This is a key benefit for all employees, including Police and Fire employees. The key investments in employee benefits such as the pension fund are part of a multi-year plan to improve employee working conditions, particularly with Fire and Police employees.
Employee pay: The budget allocates $2.4 million to lift all full-time employees to $15.50 per hour, and $1.4 million in targeted raises for employees identified to be paid significantly under market value. For instance, crew chiefs in the Department of Solid Waste will receive as much as a 10 percent pay increase. In Mayor Strickland’s first two years, Police and Fire employees received pay increases ranging from 6 to 7.75 percent. This came after years of no pay increases.
Reinvesting in our city and youth: The budget makes a variety of key investments in programming for citizens, particularly for young people. The budget allocates $500,000 more for increased library programming; $1.3 million more for parks, chiefly to launch staffed programming in parks and community centers; and $300,000 to increase Office of Youth Services summer jobs from 1,250 to 1,500.
The property tax rate of $3.19 per $100 in assessed value marks an eight-cent decrease from last year’s tax rate of $3.27. This is the state certified rate that is equivalent to the current $3.27, thanks to a lower-than-expected number of property assessment appeals tied to the 2017 reassessment.