Mayor Jim Strickland proposes new budget, includes raises for police officers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Continuing to be "brilliant at the basics" -- that is the goal Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is aiming for as he presented his proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

According to the plan, the mayor is looking to make the city safer by increasing pay and retention for Memphis Police, increasing recruiting classes, making necessary changes to the 911 call center and approving more overtime so police can focus on high-crime areas.

For officers on the force 12 years or longer, they'll see a 2 percent pay increase. Eleven years or less: 1 percent. Officers will also see money from the recent multi-million-dollar grant the city obtained.

Firefighters were not included in the pay raise.

As for pensions, the budgets calls for the city to spend $55.1 million. According to the city, that's 5 percent higher than required by the state for 2018. The ultimate goal is to have the pensions fully funded by 2020.

He also suggested keeping students off the streets by reopening 10 local libraries. In addition, all 24 libraries will have extended hours during the summer months and will be equipped with literacy components.

Approximately $18.5 million of the budget will go toward paving city streets -- a $2 million increase from the current budget and almost double what was spent in the 2015 fiscal year.

The proposed operating budget will be $668.7 million, and the proposed capital improvement budget is $77.8 million.

So how does this affect taxpayers?

The mayor said residents should expect to see a $5 increase on their storm water and sewer fees per month.

The proposed budget will not call for a property tax increase.

"When we're smart stewards of the public's money and run an efficient government, it truly is possible to increase what we do for young people, continue to solidify public safety, double down on infrastructure and core services, and still not place the burden of a property tax increase on our citizens," said Strickland.

In regards to pay increases for police officers, Matt Cunningham, with the Memphis Police Officers Association said, "We’re obviously always happy to get some sort of wage increase, our biggest problem is, is it enough to start recruiting and retaining officers here.”

However Thomas Malone, President of the Memphis Firefighters Union, blasted the fact firefighters were not included.

"These men and women are busting their butts out there and you talk about crime? They live it every day! They’re in every crime scene that happens. But no mention of firefighters in the budget. Not even when he talked about public safety did he even utter the word of firefighters," explained Malone.

Strickland did talk about the importance of investing in youth—multiple times, telling WREG it's part of his crime plan.

"Having our community centers and our libraries do more for young people. We did a little bit in our first year but we wanted to do more," said Strickland.

To firefighters not receiving a raise, Mayor Strickland said in the last 16 months firefighters have collectively received a 5 percent pay raise, their health insurance has improved and more money is going to their pension.

The City Council still has to approve the budget.

Budget hearings will begin May 2 with a decision being made by July 1.