Weekly Update: Welcoming new Fire and Police employees


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Improving the recruiting and retention of City employees — particularly public safety-focused employees in Police and Fire — has been one of our most intensive tasks these past three years.

We have more work ahead of us, to be sure. While we’ve improved compensation and benefits, we want to improve them more. While we’ve reduced attrition and increased headcount, we have more work ahead of us.

This is, without a doubt, a long-haul task.

There’s no question, though, that we should celebrate our successes. Just yesterday, we had two: the graduation of 84 new Memphis Fire employees from the training academy, and the graduation of 38 new Memphis Police officers as part of a third class we squeezed in this year to maximize our police recruiting efforts.

Our improved pay, benefits, and promotions are paying dividends. Seventy of the new MFD employees were graduates of a lateral recruiting class, meaning they left other cities to come work for us.

As I say to our new recruits every time we talk, I thank them on behalf of a grateful city.

Next time you see an MPD or MFD employee, I encourage you to thank them, too.

Explaining TIFs: We’re all very excited about the Union Row project, which could transform a wide area of Downtown and pump as much as $950 million in investment into our city over the life of the project.

It’s yet another example of how Memphis has momentum.

As you read headlines about the project and the tax incentives it’s seeking, it’s important to understand them fully. Union Row is seeking tax increment financing — a TIF. We have a few of these areas around our city. For example, one is helping breathe new life into Uptown and North Memphis.

TIFs are simple: They capture increases in property tax dollars in defined areas to help pay for public improvements. They do not use the current property tax dollars, meaning that this is money generated by the project — money that would not exist without the project.

In Union Row’s case, the payoffs are big. The Union Row parcels currently generate a little less than $200,000 a year in property taxes. Even with the TIF, we estimate to receive $2 million more per year. And when the TIF expires, that increases to $10 million.

Not a bad way to jump-start vacant property that’s currently generating very little tax revenue.

TIFs are the property tax cousins of Tourism Development Zones (TDZs), which use increases in sales tax revenue to pay for things like the Fairgrounds development. In both cases, this allows big-time developments without dipping into the general fund tax revenues we use to provide and improve basic services to you.

Using TDZs and TIFs to fuel growth in our city — instead of using general fund dollars — is yet another way we work to be good stewards of your tax dollars.

Rediscover a jewel: The Pink Palace Museum will hold a grand re-opening Saturday after a two-year renovation of that beautiful building. I hope you’ll take the time in the coming weeks and months to rediscover this jewel in our city.

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