Mayor Strickland Proposes Public Safety-Focused Budget
Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposed 2018-19 City of Memphis budgets make targeted, strategic investments designed to continue recent progress in strengthening public safety.
The proposed $685.3 million operating budget represents an increase of revenue of $10.1 million from last year, thanks to increased collections tied to a stronger local economy.
“We have seen some encouraging signs in recent months, with both violent crime as a whole and our murder rate showing declines — but I’m the first to say that this does not mean our work is done,” Mayor Strickland said. “We must continue to advance this progress, and this budget makes the strategic investments in all areas — from policing to youth intervention and neighborhoods — that Memphis needs.”
Key additions for public safety include:
* $1.5 million for more manpower for the Memphis Police Department
* $1.8 million in testing to facilitate promotions for Police and Fire employees, which are a critical piece of the overall strategy to retain Police and Fire employees
* $500,000 more for increased library programming
* $1.3 million more for parks, chiefly to launch staffed programming in parks and community centers
* More than $2 million in additional money geared toward solidifying the City’s pension system, a key benefit for all employees, including Police and Fire employees
* $300,000 to increase Office of Youth Services summer jobs from 1,250 to 1,500
* $500,000 for additional emergency medical personnel for Memphis Fire
The proposed budget funds two large or three mid-sized police recruiting classes and an increase in police service technicians (PSTs), both critical components of Mayor Strickland’s ongoing efforts to rebuild MPD staffing. More commissioned officers, coupled with more PSTs to work minor, traffic-type situations, will allow MPD to increase staffing in its gang unit and community policing units, two strategic areas in reducing violent crime.
“We’ve been here before,” Mayor Strickland said. “From 2006 to 2011, we saw significant decreases in violent crime. And then, from 2012 to 2015, the City drastically reduced police recruiting — including no recruit class at all in 2014. By 2016, we were trending toward our smallest police force in a decade — and our highest violent crime rate in a decade, too.”
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. 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.
Strickland is proposing a level property tax rate of $3.19 per $100 in assessed value. 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.
“Remember the big picture: Population loss remains our No. 1 challenge, and I believe that our tax rate, which is easily the highest in the state, is a reason why,” Mayor Strickland said. “So I’ve made the decision not to propose a tax increase and to continue to run the most efficient government we can possibly run.”
The proposed $85.6 million capital improvement plan (CIP) budget also continues Mayor Strickland’s priority of paving more streets. Mayor Strickland is proposing to spend $19 million on paving this year, up from $18.5 million in the current budget and $16.5 million in his first budget.
The proposed amount is more than double what the City was spending just four years ago, and surpasses all recent annual City paving allocations:
* FY19 (proposed) — $19M
* FY18 — $18.5M
* FY17 — $16.5M (first Strickland budget)
* FY16 — $15M
* FY15 — $9.5M
* FY14 — $8.5M
* FY13 — $6.5M
* FY12 — $6.5M
* FY11 — $11.5M
* FY10 — $5.8M
* FY09 — $12M
* FY08 — $12M
* FY07 — $12M
No across-the-board pay increases are proposed like in the past three years. Instead, the administration is proposing a more strategic approach, targeting $1.4 million in increases for employees who are paid more than 5 percent below market value.
In his State of the City address in January, Mayor Strickland outlined his administration’s actions and continued goals toward reinvesting in our core and our neighborhoods — “building up, not out,” he said.
The proposed operating budget continues this progress. In Parks, additional funding will allow staffers to coordinate activities this summer in 20 parks across the city. That’s in addition to community center summer camps being free of charge this summer for the first time. In Libraries, additional funding will boost programming for youth, which has already increased under Mayor Strickland’s tenure.
The proposed operating budget also increases the number of Office of Youth Services summer jobs from 1,250 to 1,500. Added to other existing City programming, this will bring the overall jobs number up to around 3,700.
“The good thing about so many of the items above is that they’re not all solely about public safety,” Mayor Strickland said. “They’re about connecting our young people with opportunity. They’re about reinvesting in our city — and bringing new life into places dormant for so long.”
Building off improved City contracting performance with minority and women-owned businesses under Mayor Strickland’s watch, the proposed operating budget allocates $500,000 toward a new minority business incubator at the renovated and historic Universal Life building.
Mayor Strickland’s proposed $58 million toward the City’s annual pension funding 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. For context, as recently as 2014, the City allocated roughly only $20 million toward its pension.
The budget presentation begins the approval process as specified by the City charter, which calls for the mayor to propose a budget and for the City Council to approve it. The council will hold budget hearings with individual divisions in the coming weeks. The operating budget, capital budget, and tax rate must be approved in three readings by the council prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.