Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland presented the 2020 budget to the Memphis City Council Tuesday.
The $709 million operating budget doesn’t include a tax increase. Strickland said this is possible because his administration has been “disciplined and efficient with city government operates.”
Strickland also highlighted that for the first time since 2006, the pension fund will be fully funded.
The key focus areas of the budget are public safety, paving, opportunities for youth, reducing recidivism, and improving neighborhoods.
“Today I am presenting a budget that will help city government do its part to accelerate that momentum,” Strickland said.
One way the budget will do that is through a 3-percent raise for all commissioned Memphis Police Department officers and Memphis Fire Department personnel, which the mayor first announced last month.
Public safety has been a top priority, the mayor said.
When Strickland took office in 2016 policing recruiting was basically “nonexistent,” he said. Since then the number of commissioned officers has risen from 1,900 to over 2,000. The goal is have 2,100 officers later this year and 2,300 by 2020, Strickland said.
Strickland said that all city employees will receive a 1 percent pay increase: “It’s not revolutionary, but it is absolutely necessary to recruit and retain quality employees and further demonstrate that the city of Memphis government is truly a great place to work.”
The pay increases will be funded by $10 million in revenue growth. Due to less expenditures there’s an additional $4 million in revenue that will go toward the increasing cost of insurance premiums for city employees.
Another area of focus is paving. Strickland said for the fourth year in a row, he is proposing increased funding for paving, which he said is an “expensive but very necessary budget item.”
Strickland is also proposing to invest in neighborhoods through two funds. The first is the Community Catalyst fund, which the mayor first announced at the State of the City address in January. Starting at $2 million a year, the fund will be dedicated to renewing the source of money used to make infrastructure improvements to key neighborhood areas. Under the initiative, the city will work with neighborhoods to identify areas that need improvement to infrastructure hoping to spark private development.
The second fund, the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund, will be used for new construction and rehab of multi-family homes, as well as minor home repairs for low income families. The fund will get $700,000 in its first year.
“For far too many families in Memphis, housing takes way too much of their income,” Strickland said. “It’s a problem that’s gotten worse.”
Finally, the mayor is looking to reduce recidivism through expanding Manhood University, a six-week program that teaches young men skills such as, time management, communication, financial literacy, job readiness, and conflict resolution.
Other highlights of the budget include increased jobs for youth, a new library in Frayser, a new fire station in Whitehaven, and an additional $2.5 million for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.
The council has until the end of June to discuss, amend, and vote on a final budget.