Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Budget Brings Pay Increases, Stable Tax Rate

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge (From left): Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis City Council budget chairman Edmund Ford Jr., and council chairman Kemp Conrad.
  • (From left): Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis City Council budget chairman Edmund Ford Jr., and council chairman Kemp Conrad.

Memphis city employees will all get a pay raise this year and the city tax rate will hold steady thanks to Tuesday’s passage of a nearly $667 million budget by the Memphis City Council.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland proposed his version of the budget in mid-April. The council has been working to review and change that budget since then in hours of budget hearings and debates during council meetings.

After a series of reductions and increases to several departments and agencies, the council did reduce Strickland’s overall budget by about $340,000 overall.

One of the biggest cuts council members proposed was to reduce Strickland’s budget for his office by $1.5 million. But that cut was overturned Tuesday as Strickland promised the council he’d find the funds through other cuts to the budget.

That money was originally slated to pay for a 1 percent pay increase to city employees (who were not police officers or firefighters). Instead, the council approved a 1.5 percent pay increase for those employees.

Police officers got a 3 percent pay increase in this year’s budget. Firefighters got a 2 percent increase. Both of those increases were included in Strickland’s original budget and were worked out with the police and fire unions beforehand.

The mayor and council did al of this (and more) will holding the city's property tax rate at $3.40.

This budget season was one of the shortest and calmest in recent history. The council’s deadline to pass a budget was the end of June. In the past, the council has made this deadline through a series of arduous, hours-long floor debates during regular meetings and sometimes more hours of debate in specially called meetings.

Not only did the council beat the deadline by a few weeks, they got the final budget vote in about 30 minutes Tuesday evening.

“Never in my seven years on the council have I seen such a smooth passage,” said council chairman Kemp Conrad in a statement after Tuesday meeting. “I commend Mayor Strickland and his entire administration for their cooperation and support.

I applaud the leadership of budget chairman [Edmund] Ford on this successful budget review. I truly believe this budget lays the foundation for a successful year ahead.”

The council did give Strickland the challenge to find the money for the pay increases. Also, he’ll have to manage cuts to the human resources and legal divisions as well as cuts to the city’s fuel budget.

“These budgets meet our needs, and they accomplish the goals we set out in April — to strive to be brilliant at the basics at performing core city services,” Strickland said in a statement on Facebook. “We’re prioritizing public safety, pension funding, and street paving/repairs. We're investing in our neighborhoods and doing what’s important for our citizens — all while managing limited resources.”

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