Strickland Pitches Budget Plan For Stable City Tax Rate

By Bill Dries

City Council budget committee chairman Jim Strickland plans to make his case Tuesday, June 17, for a set of city budget cuts totaling $26.3 million that would keep the city property tax rate at its current rate of $3.11.

Strickland circulated his budget plan to City Council members Monday, the day before council members are expected to spend much of Tuesday at City Hall debating a property tax rate and city operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The council has also scheduled a special meeting for June 25 in the event it doesn’t complete action on the set of budget items this week.

The biggest dollar figures in Strickland’s plan come from reducing the head count or number of city employees by 400.

Strickland is proposing laying off 100 city employees to save the city $6.3 million and save another $9.4 million through the retirement of 300 city employees or their departure through attrition.

The figure of 400 employees is the same in Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s plan which includes a 15-cent tax increase on top of a 25-cent property tax rate increase to make up for property value lost in the 2013 property reappraisal.

Strickland’s plan does not include the buyout option featured in Wharton’s plan.

Other parts of the Strickland proposal include eliminating $2.6 million in vacancies in city divisions other than those with public safety functions, like police and fire services.

He would also eliminate the city weights and measures program for $501,000 in savings.

City divisions would also take percentage cuts in materials and supplies for a total of $3.3 million in savings.

Police and fire would take a one percent cut in materials and supplies. The cut would be five percent for city divisions that provide services to the public including parks, housing and community development, engineering, public works and the city court clerk’s office.

City divisions that are administrative would take a 10 percent cut including the council, the mayor’s office, information services, city court judges, human resources and finance.

The divisions would also see cuts in travel as well as money for seminars and to pay dues or membership fees for professional associations.

Strickland has also incorporated into his plan $282,620 in savings other council members have proposed during budget committee sessions recently.

The budget committee begins what is expected to be a day of deliberations including one- on-one private talks between individual council members and the Wharton administration at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.