The fiscal health of the city of Memphis, which has $88 million in reserve funds, is relatively better than the federal government, which is looking at a $1.2 trillion deficit, according to President-elect Barack Obama.
Fiscal year 2009, the mayor said, will be better than fiscal year 2010, when the effects of the recession and property reappraisal will be felt.
Herenton and his advisers are preparing a wish list of stimulus projects to present to the Obama administration.
The Memphis property tax rate, by far the highest in Tennessee, is relatively low compared to some Midwestern cities, Herenton said, promising not to raise taxes in 2009.
City services for police, fire, and sanitation are relatively more important than services such as libraries and community centers, which face cutbacks. Other unspecified city departments will also undergo layoffs and buyouts for the first time in 17 years, Herenton said. He added that he is still committed to hiring 500 more police officers and, contrary to some members of the Memphis City Council, "I don't care where they live."
Finally, consolidated city and county government is relatively more efficient than separate governments, even if it would not immediately result in any savings. And for Herenton, consolidation means schools and law enforcement.
"We'll get there," the mayor said.
There were no surprises in Herenton's speech, the first of the new year. He made no references to a federal investigation, and the audience didn't ask him about it.
Herenton will speak to the Memphis Rotary Club next week and said he will have some new information.