MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland presented his budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year Tuesday.
The budget totals $667 million, $9 million more than the current budget, but Strickland said there is a small uptick in revenue.
The proposal does not include a property tax increase and does not dip into reserves, he said.
Strickland said his priorities are public safety, pensions and paving streets.
For public safety, he proposed an increase of $6 million. He also wants $3.8 million to make pay more competitive for police and $1.9 million to raise pay for firefighters.
He also wants to fund two more recruiting academy classes since the city is short 400 officers, and the union said more are leaving every week because of poor pay and benefits.
Strickland also proposed $54 million to go toward the city’s pension fund, up from $50 million.
The budget allots $16.5 million in capital funds for repaving streets, 10 percent more than last year. These nicer roads would be driven on by improved transportation, as Strickland proposed a $5 million increase in capital spending for MATA along with $2.5 million more in operating money.
MATA’s president said this increased funding means he could get more buses.
“These budget proposals are the substance of what I mean when I say our administration pledges to be ‘brilliant at the basics’,” Strickland said. “We’re prioritizing public safety, pension funding and street paving. The more we invest in those key areas, the more we can multiply all the good things going on in Memphis today.”
Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said the proposal is a step in the right direction.
“Crime is up. Homicides are up 47 percent. Violent crimes are up 24 percent,” he said. “The Strickland administration said that they are going to try to get us equal to what the comparison study says. We understand that it would be a big chop to do that all at once.”
Memphis Firefighters Association President Thomas Malone said he’s content with the budget proposal.
“What I’m waiting to see cautiously is what happens in these committee meetings. What does the council try to cut,” said Malone. “If we don’t stop this bleeding, and the attack on public safety then it’s going to reflect all over the city.”
The council will start its budget discussions next week, and will have to approve the final budget by June.
Mayor Strickland told WREG he’s expecting changes to be made.
“I was on the council. There’s not one budget in the history of the city of Memphis that ever goes through that hasn’t been amended. We just hope it doesn’t substantially get changed. We will work with the council if they have a concern. We will work with them,” he said.