Weekly Update: Changing Memphis through four years of City budgets


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The passage of our 2019-20 budget earlier this week was yet another statement of how we’re building a stronger City government to accelerate our momentum. We’ll strengthen public safety, do more for our youth, invest in our neighborhoods, and pave more streets — all without raising your taxes.

But that’s just one budget. Today, I'll take a step back and look at how we’ve been able to change City government through the four budgets we’ve passed alongside our partners on the City Council.

Incorporating the budget passed this week that will take effect on July 1, let me share what we’ll have been able to accomplish through four budgets:

  • I was on the Council in 2015 when we pushed forward the first employee pay increase since 2009. And in our four budgets, we’ve kept working on employee compensation. Starting with Jan. 1, 2016, police officers have seen their pay increase by 9.75 to 11.75 percent, and fire employees will have seen theirs increase by 10 percent. Why does this matter? Paying our officers and firefighters what they deserve is a huge part of retaining them and keeping staffing where it needs to be. Today, I’m proud to report we have a fully staffed Fire Department and we have hired more than 400 additional police officers since taking office — building toward our goal of a force of 2,300 officers.
  • We’ll have allocated a combined $73.5 million to street paving. In the four years immediately prior, the City spent just a combined $39.5 million. Add that to underfunding from years before, and we have the backlog that we’re working to overcome right now and will be for years to come.
  • MATA now receives $5 million more per year in funding. Public transit is vital to our city’s future, and I’m proud that we stabilized the system immediately after taking office, ramped up funding, and have cast a vision and plan for full funding that we’re working with our partners to achieve.
  • We’ll soon have universal, needs-based Pre-K. Long a goal of the community’s, we were able to find a creative way to fund it within the budget and not raise taxes.
  • For the first time ever, the City has dedicated funding for improvements in disinvested neighborhoods (the Community Catalyst Fund) and to ensure housing is safe and affordable (the Affordable Housing Trust Fund). Both of these were recommendations in the Memphis 3.0 comprehensive plan.
  • Seventy-five percent more young people will have summer or year-round jobs than when we took office. For the first time, the City will have a comprehensive plan to reach opportunity youth. We instituted literacy programming in summer camps — and we made those summer camps free for the first time. And this summer, we’ll be opening some community centers late on Friday nights to give youth productive things to do.
  • Our pension fund is fully funded for the first time since 2006, ensuring stability for our employees and broadcasting the strength of our financial position. 
  • Frayser is getting a new library and community center. Whitehaven is getting a new fire station.
  • Our Parks and Neighborhoods Division has launched staffed play and programming in parks and community centers.
  • Memphians experiencing homelessness have more assistance from City government with the Work Local program and the plans for a new homeless day center and women's shelter with the Hospitality Hub.
  • Through an expansion of our highly successful Manhood University program and starting a program specifically for women, and along with the County’s efforts, we’ve doubled re-entry programming.
  • Library branches that were once closed on Fridays are now open. We’ve funded more programming, and attendance in those programs has increased by 187 percent since 2015.

And we did all of this without raising taxes. In fact, thanks to the 2017 reappraisal and the fiscal discipline we applied in reaction to it, your tax rate is lower today than it was when I took office — $3.19 per $100 in assessed value, down from $3.40.

Oh, and one last thing: I hope you’ve noticed how we’ve worked together with the Council to build consensus and show you a government of which you can be proud. None of the four budgets took more than an hour of debate to pass. And of the 52 possible votes on the Council (13 council members x 4 years), there have only been two ‘no’ votes.

I couldn’t be prouder of my team, and I'm grateful for our ongoing partnership with the City Council.

One of the true joys of this job is finding ways to make the complicated parts of government work to improve lives. Through these budgets, we’ve been able to do just that with much more work ahead.

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