Tuesday, April 25, 2017

No New Taxes in Mayor's New Budget

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 4:40 PM

click to enlarge jim_strickland_750xx1125_1561492468.jpg
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s budget for the next fiscal year does not call for any new taxes, but it does call for some new fees to build infrastructure, more money to shore up the city’s pension system, and money to retain and recruit police officers here.

Strickland delivered his 2018 budget to the Memphis City Council in a short presentation Tuesday. The total general fund budget he proposed is $668.7 million, just slightly higher than the current-year budget of about $667 million.

Strickland’s capital improvement program budget (which pays for one-time, big-ticket items and are usually paid for with bonds) is $77.8 million. That is much lower than Strickland’s $85 million for the current fiscal year. Both figures are far lower than the $189 million CIP in former Mayor A C Wharton’s final budget.

The current city tax rate is $3.40 per $100 of assessed value of property. Strickland’s budget proposes keeping that figure where it is. Though, it may go down.

Here’s what Strickland’s team said about that process in a news release following his presentation:

“The office of the Shelby County Assessor of Property recently completed its every-four-years reappraisal of property values, and average values in Memphis have increased. The increase will result in a new, lower certified tax rate — which state law mandates so that higher values still produce the same amount of tax revenue for local governments.

The certified tax rate for Memphis will be determined shortly, and it will be the tax rate endorsed by Mayor Strickland.”

The budget adds new city sewer and storm water fees to “invest in our infrastructure.” The fees work out to about $5 per household, Strickland said. The improved infrastructure will help control flooding in the city, Strickland said.

Noting that public safety is the “No. 1 job of city government,” Strickland said his new budget includes pay raises for Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers, new classes to recruit police officers, and more overtime pay for officers in high-crime areas.

“Our administration inherited a police force with its lowest staffing level in about 10 years,” Strickland said.

Strickland proposal hastens the march to fully funding the pension system for city employees. The Tennessee State Comptroller put Tennessee cities on a five-year plan to fully fund their pensions a few years ago.

At the end of that five years, those cities must be funding pensions at 100 percent each year. But the comptroller allow a five-year ramp-up process to get there. Strickland plans to pay about 88 percent of the required annual contribution to the system next year, while state officials only mandate cities fund it at 83 percent at that time.

Strickland wants $18.5 million to pave more Memphis streets. He wants funds to re-open 10 library branches on Fridays. He wants to offer free spring break camps again next year and employ Memphis youths through a summer job program.

He said he also wants to continue the spirit of collaboration with the city council. That collaboration led to one of the quickest, less-contentious budget seasons in recent memory last year. He said that budget changed lives for the better.

“I know you want this positive momentum to continue,” Strickland said. “And I know you want to see other examples of things we’ve collectively turned around, too.

“So let’s work together the next few weeks to deliver a budget that will enable us to continue changing lives for the better in our city.”

Strickland’s presentation kicks off a weeks-long budget season at Memphis City Hall. City council members will now hold a series of budget hearings, in which they will learn about, discuss, and, likely, change Strickland’s original proposal.

The council will have the final word on the city’s budget. They must take a final vote on the budget by July 1.

For full details of the mayor's new budget plan, go here.

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