Councilman Ford pushes to include $15.50 minimum wage to budget

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Another battle is brewing over the mayor's proposed budget.

Mayor Jim Strickland presented his 2019 budget Tuesday, but it did not include raises to get all city employees to $15.50 an hour--an effort the Memphis City Council supports.

Budget hearings start next week, and that's when the council can work through the mayor's budget and ultimately decide what they want to fund.

Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford Jr. has been pushing for a base wage increase to $15.50 an hour for all city employees.

Tuesday night, the council signaled it's behind the proposal, giving it a first approval.

"I'm excited that it was a unanimous vote. If there are some things that a majority of the council believes need to be put into this budget, we will try to find those monies accordingly," Ford said.

The vote came moments after Strickland presented his $685.3 million budget and revealed the administration is planning to spend $1.4 million on targeted pay raises for roughly 700 employees who make 5 percent below market average.

But the mayor's effort does not include bumping employees up to a $15.50 an hour minimum as suggested by Ford.

"It does not get everyone up to $15 an hour. Maybe over a couple years we could get there," Strickland said on Tuesday night.

Ford said he's identified 420 employees affected under his proposal, and it would cost between $750,000 to $1.5 million to get them to $15.50 an hour, depending on when the measure goes in place.

It's an issue, he said, the council is committed to during the budget process.

"If we are looking at it as a whole, a living wage, we're going to look at erasing poverty. We need to start taking these individual steps," Ford said.

Last year the mayor did not propose across the board raises, but the council eventually approved a one percent raise for all city employees.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.