Strickland proposes lower tax rate in new Memphis city budget

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland on Tuesday proposed a city budget with a property tax rate of $3.19 per $100, eight cents lower than the current rate and 21 cents below the year before.

Strickland, in his third budget presentation to City Council since taking office, said anything above the $3.19 rate would amount to a tax increase.

"Population loss remains our No. 1 challenge and I believe our tax rate, which is easily the highest in the state, is a reason," Strickland said.

Strickland said that public safety is the top priority among city residents. The new budget contains $1.8 million for police and fire department promotional testing and $1.5 million for additional police manpower.

It also proposes $1.4 million for targeted pay increases for city employees making less than the market average, and a $1.3 million increase in parks funding.

Strickland says there won't be a pay raise for police officers and fire fighters since he only could work with about $10 million in revenue.

"They're not going to be happy, but that's why I went out of my way to talk about how, since Jan. 1, 2016, police and fire have received a combined 6-7.75 percent pay increase over two years. We can't do it every year. I wish we could," Strickland said.

The $19 million the budget lays out for street paving is double what the city budgeted a few years ago, Strickland said.

When asked about the possibility of Memphis seceding from the state of Tennessee Mayor Strickland said, "I don't think it's realistic, so I don't spend much time thinking about it."

No council members made any comments or asked questions about the mayor's proposal.

The City Council is expected to pass a budget June 5.

► Read the proposed operating budget here

► Read the proposed capital improvement budget here