Weekly Update

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Earlier this week, as I do around this time each year, I presented my proposed budget to city council. Historically, and especially the last two fiscal years, we have been faced with very difficult financial choices. While we still face difficult decisions, I am very proud to say that we are in good financial shape.


The title of this year’s speech was, “A Budget of Renewal”. It was given that name because, with this budget, city employees will be renewed with an increase in pay for their diligent service to our community; in concert with our Accelerate Memphis projects, city assets will continue to receive much needed funding for improved community use; and our city streets will be renewed with more money allocated to paving and to fight against illegal dumping.


I titled the speech the way I did because we are in a time of renewal and reinvestment in our city—the likes of which we have not seen in recent history.


With these thoughts in mind, I will summarize a few points of my proposed budget:


  • A significant investment in City employees, particularly our public safety employees. 

This budget completes the six percent increase for firefighters (three percent last year and three percent this year), starts a ten percent pay increase for police officers (five percent this year and five percent next year), a two percent pay increase for general employees and a one percent Cost of Living increase for our retirees. 


This budget also expands the current yearly retention program to a five-year program, and allows public safety employees to choose the duration of their contract. Simply put, for every one year our police officers and firefighters elect to stay with us, they will receive a  nine percent annual bonus payment up to five years.  


  • Tackling the blight of illegal dumping

This budget adds a dedicated unit of 17 staff members and equipment to our environmental enforcement department. This group will be tasked to focus exclusively on cleaning up illegal dumping sites that plague our city—a task that historically has caused us to pull solid waste employees away from our curbside trash collection efforts.


  • A dedicated funding source to MATA

When I took office in 2016, annual funding for MATA was a little more than $23 million.  We knew this was insufficient. Over four years and in partnership with city council, we increased this funding by 43 percent to almost $33 million in FY2020. Then the pandemic hit and our revenues plummeted, and we were forced to temporarily lower our contribution by $10 million. Fortunately, MATA did not suffer financially as we were able to supplement that gap with federal funding over the last two years.


While we still have more work to do, this budget proposes funding for MATA restoring it back to pre-pandemic levels by adding $10 million worth of operating funds. To go a step even further, it also, and for the very first time ever, establishes a dedicated transit fund.  Most importantly, this dedicated funding stream will yield a permanent net increase to MATA’s operating budget by $4 million of funding in FY2023. This dedicated funding stream will grow to just around $11 million of additional revenue by FY2030, and will bring us another step closer to implementing Memphis Transit Vision.


This dedicated funding is proposed from expiring PILOTs. These funds were previously dedicated to help fund Pre-K, but because we have allocated a portion of our sales tax revenues (thanks to the recently passed public safety referendum), our continued funding for Pre-K has been secured for years to come and allows us to allocate the the funding from expiring PILOTs to help fund MATA.


As you may remember—during the years of a PILOT, a company pays a reduced amount of taxes. When the PILOT expires, the business pays the full rate. These increased collections, subject to city council approval, will comprise the new transit fund.


  • Highlights from my proposed CIP budget and One-time investments

We are continuing to maintain our focus on basic, core functions of City government—paving of roads, maintenance, necessary vehicles, and projects mandated by law. For instance, in the last six years we have more than doubled the paving from the prior six years, and this year’s budget proposes to continue that pace.


This proposal also builds on the momentum of our Accelerate Memphis program by delivering a new Lester Community Center, a renovated Audubon Park Golf Course, and a new Mt. Moriah Police Precinct


Because of particularly strong retail sales during the last part the pandemic, we finished the year with revenues in excess of our expenses. To put these excess funds to work for our citizens, I proposed that we allocate and appropriate one-time excess revenues from the end of FY21 in the amount of $26 million to fund the following:  the balance of the Harbor Docks project ($10 million), cost escalation for Accelerate Memphis projects ($10 million), an additional neighborhood splash pad and transform the former Davy Crockett golf course into the city’s first outdoor adventure park ($3.4 million), and to make an allocation of $2.6 million of funding for immediate capital improvements across our libraries, parks and community centers as the City Council so directs. 


Friends, we are in a time of renewal in Memphis.


After two long years fighting the pandemic, we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Our economy is strong and new public and private investment is happening all around our city. Our employment numbers have fully recovered. Our tourism numbers, meaning people visiting and spending money in our city, are better than the national average. And with this budget, we are keeping our foot on the pedal to keep that momentum going strong—all without a tax increase!


To read my full speech and see my full budget proposal, you can go here.


A tale of two teams: If you watched last night’s Grizz game, you know what I mean by that header. Talk about an historic come-from-behind win!


Be sure to watch game four tomorrow night at 9!


Go Grizz!



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