Memphis City Council members want more money for lunch, travel, lobbyists, and more in its budget next year.
The Memphis City Council wants more taxpayer money next year for lunch, travel, training for “professional growth and development,” a lobbyist, and money for potential lawsuits.
It’s budget season at Memphis City Hall. Tuesday was the first day of budget hearings for the council after Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland presented his 2018 to council members two weeks ago.
In these hearings, council members get brief presentations of the individual budgets of, say, the library system, the Memphis Fire Services Department, the city court clerk, and more. Then, council members ask questions about those budgets and sometimes they rake these city division leaders over the coals.
But the council was kinder (and quieter) when it came to reviewing its own budget Tuesday. The council’s budget committee approved the council’s 2018 budget with absolutely no discussion.
Council members can cut or increase those budgets during those hearings. If the budget committee approves the change, the idea is wrapped up into the entire budget vote, which has to happen before July 1.
That vote came on a budget that increases council spending by $203,271, much of that increase on extras. The increase brings the council budget up to more than $1.9 million, up from about $1.8 million last year.
The council wants to spend $10,000 on catering in the next fiscal year. “Catering” largely means lunches for council members on council meeting days. The $10,000 is a 2 percent increase on the $8,000 the group budgeted for this year. The council had spent $5,508 on lunches as of March, according to the city budget.
The council added lunches for its members back to its budget in recent years after a few years of members having to buy lunch on their own.
The council also wants a 23 percent increase to its travel budget for a total of $100,000. Council members had spent less than $10,000 for travel in 2015 and 2016 budgets. But, as of March 2017, they have spent $35,940 and that figure is expected to total $65,000 by the end of June.
Strickland’s budget only includes $65,000 for council travel next year, but the council’s request was for $100,000.
Also, the council wants a brand-new fund for seminars and training. Council member wants $10,000 for “staff and member professional growth and development. Additionally, any activities which would necessitate a facilitator would come from this account,” according to the budget.
Council members also wants to hire a brand new lobbyist or lobbying firm for $105,000 to “enhance the council’s relationship with the state legislature and to assist the city council on state legislative matters.”
Finally, the council wants a new legal fund for “preparing for possible lawsuits.” They’ve asked for $150,000.
Have a look at the council's budget for yourself: