MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland presented his budget for fiscal year 2020 to the Memphis City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
The mayor's proposing a raise for all city employees.
Strickland is asking for a three percent raise for public safety employees that includes police and fire and one percent for all other employees.
The associations said weeks ago that would be the administration’s offer, and they say it’s not good enough.
“We will continue to put money into public safety,” Strickland said. “It's a priority.”
After three-and-a-half years, Strickland gave the final budget presentation of his four-year term Tuesday afternoon to a packed house of city council members and staffers in his administration.
“I wish we could pay more but it’s all our city can afford right now,” Strickland said.
Strickland also says the city will absorb healthcare cost increases for employees and not pass them along. The mayor says the city’s pension fund is fully funded in this budget for the first time since 2006.
“Until now there were questions on whether that fund was solvent,” Strickland said. “Now there's no question about it, it's fully solvent we are moving ahead. I'm proud of that discipline.”
Strickland’s asking for more money to pave Memphis streets and pushing for the creation of two funds: the community catalyst fund to improve infrastructure in key neighborhoods and the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide grants and loans to help residents fix up properties.
“We are spreading the city’s resources to all parts of this city,” Strickland said.
Strickland is up for re-election in October. His two highest profile challengers at this point are former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer.
“We have been improving city services for four years and it’s been an improvement process throughout,” Strickland said. “I’m proud of our record and I’m proud to campaign on that record.”
Of course, the council has the final say on how the budget shakes out in the end. Budget hearings typically get underway in May.
Strickland says there are millions of extra dollars to spend, and several different groups want a piece of the pie.
“You could simply adopt the budget today and I'll take a motion to that regard,” Strickland said.
If only it were that easy, but budgets never are.
Memphis Fire Union President Thomas Malone says his group has been at an impasse over the city’s proposed three percent increase for public safety employees. Malone wants 3.8 percent, a number that he finds much more attainable after the Mayor said Tuesday there’s more money in the budget than expected.
“I do appreciate him being that transparent,” Malone said.
There's an additional $4 million available because the city isn't having to pay as much into the pension fund.
The Memphis Bus Riders Union wants a bigger piece of that windfall as well.
“The city is supposed to be a city of growth. It’s not a city of growth if you ain’t got a good transportation system,” said Sammie Hunter of the Memphis Bus Riders Union.
Strickland proposed a $2.5 million increase to the city’s busing system, MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld said last year the agency has been underfunded between $20-25 million yearly compared to peer cities.
“You got people out here trying to get to the doctor, trying to get the healthcare, trying to get grocery stores and stuff like that , so I don’t think $2.5 million is not going to cover enough of what we’re looking for,” Hunter said.
Strickland wants the additional funds to go towards rising insurance premium for employees. The city’s first budget meeting will be next month.