Weekly Update: Answering some of your common questions


Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Bookmark and Share


One of the priorities I place on the Weekly Update is to educate citizens about the complicated issues we tackle every single day. How better to do that than by answering your questions directly?

So I’ve collected a few that I hear frequently:

What’s the deal with PILOTs? I hear we lose tax revenue by granting them. You’ve heard wrong. This may well be the most misunderstood item that I encounter in city government. In essence, a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) is a tax incentive we give to enable projects that would not have otherwise happened.

I’ll explain by using the recently approved Madison/McLean multi-family residential PILOT as an example.

  • Currently, the site generates $11,100 per year in city taxes. 
  • During the PILOT term, once construction is complete, it is estimated to generate about $40,000 per year in city taxes. 
  • And after the term, it is estimated to generate about $160,000 per year.

That means more money to pay for city services such as public safety, not less.

Contrary to another misconception, PILOTs are not cash payments to companies. They simply are tax incentives that make these developments happen, all while we get more tax revenue than we would have without most of the new developments.

Crime dropped dramatically in New York City when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. Why don’t you just do what he did? Set aside for a second whether his policies were good or bad. One simple reason is overlooked by those who ask that: Giuliani inherited a fully staffed police force. I did not. We’re down several hundred officers from our peak in November 2011, thanks in no small part to a lack of recruiting between 2012 and 2015. We currently have the smallest police force in a decade.

The good news is this: That’s about to change. We’re heading back in the right direction.

In two weeks, another 80 or so officers will join the force. Another big class starts in about a month. Rebuilding MPD is a priority so we can be fully staffed to adequately and aggressively fight crime. It’ll just take us a while to be back at our goal.

Is policing your only strategy to reduce crime? Of course not -- and if someone says that, you need to know that they’re deliberately trying to deceive you. In fact, we communicated all the prongs of our crime strategy, which includes everything from policing to addressing the root issues of crime, just last week.

I hear a lot about immigration. Are we a sanctuary city? No. As it pertains to the federal government’s definition of “sanctuary city,” the county -- not the city -- makes those decisions. We explained this at length a few months back.

The tax rate went down. My tax bill went up. What gives? It’s true; we did reduce the tax rate this year from $3.40 per $100 in assessed value to $3.27. But we didn’t brag about a tax cut because it would have been disingenuous. The $3.27 is only the state-mandated certified rate to balance out the higher property values from the county assessor’s every-four-years reassessment.

So yes, if the Shelby County Assessor said your property value went up, it’s entirely conceivable that your tax bill went up even with the lower tax rate.

When will you pave [insert street name here]? This may be the most frequent question I’m asked. Fortunately, there’s a map for that. Our street paving schedule map shows where we’re planning to pave this year and in coming years.

And we’re planning to pave a lot, because it's a priority I set at City Hall. As the chart below shows, we’re paving double the lane-miles as we did just four years ago.

 Street paving

Since we’re always looking for new revenue, why don’t we start charging a toll on the interstate? Or what about a payroll tax? Both of those items are prohibited by Tennessee law.


As for a few other items that happened this week:

A good trip to D.C.: Special counsel Alan Crone and I had a successful trip to Washington D.C. this week to let our senators and representatives know how the proposed federal budget could impact our city. I’m particularly grateful to two members of our staff -- Housing & Community Development Director Paul Young and Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator Dabney Ring -- for their work in making the trip a success.

We’re Fed Up: When you see the new “Fed Up” billboards in our city, please know that this is a campaign to communicate new, stiffer sentences that await our most violent criminals. We shared more at an event earlier this week.

Memphis in The New York Times: I’ll close with linking a very nice article that appeared in The New York Times this week about the grants we’re awarding the 1968 sanitation workers. And a couple of weeks ago, Ryan Poe’s article made it into USA Today.

It’s never too late to do the right thing -- and I’m glad the readers of the two largest newspapers in the country are able to see that we’re making this happen in Memphis.

Mayor's signature