Council Tackles Budget, Tax Rate

By Bill Dries

Memphis City Council members take their first steps Tuesday, May 7, toward approving a city operating budget and property tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

City Parks and Neighborhoods Division Director Janet Hooks makes her case before the Memphis City Council’s budget committee. The committee will hear this week from agencies part of the operating budget.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

On the agenda for the first of three readings is an ordinance approving the operating budget and an ordinance approving the property tax rate. But at this early stage in budget deliberations, both ordinances amount to fill-in-the-blank actions that have no overall budget amount and no tax rate.

If the council stays on the schedule with first reading of the two ordinances Tuesday, the vote on third and final reading would be at the June 4 council session. The schedule gives the council one more session in June before the July 1 start of the fiscal year in the event the council amends the ordinance on third reading requiring an additional vote.

Meanwhile, the council budget committee continues its work at an 8 a.m. committee session hearing from leaders of 11 city-funded agencies including the Riverfront Development Corp., Downtown Memphis Commission and the Economic Development Growth Engine.

The committee takes up the Police Department’s budget proposal at 9:45 a.m. The Memphis Police Department is the largest single department in terms of funding in the entire $622.5 million proposal from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. at $237.5 million.

The proposed police budget is a $4.6 million increase from the budget approved by the council for the current fiscal year.

The first of 10 impasse committees could also report to the full council Tuesday on their decisions in stalled labor contract talks between the unions representing city employees and the Wharton administration.

An impasse committee of three council members decides between the final offers from both sides in each of the impasse proceedings.

The council impasse committee on talks between the city and the Memphis Police Association voted Friday to go with the union’s final offer, which includes a 4.6 percent pay raise.

The administration has proposed a 2.3 percent pay raise for all city employees effective in January, halfway through the fiscal year.

When an impasse committee’s decision is formally reported to the council, the council can either accept it or veto it.

Also up for the first of three readings Tuesday is an ordinance proposed by council member Kemp Conrad that would ban city pension “double dipping.”

The proposal specifically bans city employees who retire and get a city government pension from being rehired by city government and then getting paid for their work as well as continuing to receive their pension payments.

Benefit payments to a retired city employee would stop once they start working for the city again and there is a provision for recalculating benefits due after the second period of employment. But that amount cannot be less than the benefit the employee was getting just before re-employment.

Conrad’s proposal would also require that retired city employees who go to work for Shelby County government, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, the Shelby County Schools system or any other local government entity would have their pension payment from the city reduced by whatever amount they made when working for the other government entity.

On the council’s agenda Tuesday is a planned development on Summer Avenue at Sycamore View Road for a golf driving range on 24.61 acres of land.

There is also a planned development for Regency Homebuilders LLC apartments at Lenow Road and Dexter Road that was also on the Shelby County Commission’s agenda Monday.

Also up for council approval is the third phase of apartments near Shelby Farms Park in Cordova. The Parks Edge at Shelby Farms apartment complex on Trinity Road at the terminus of Trinity Creek Cove would be 69 new apartment units on 4.19 acres. There are already 450 apartment units across two complexes on the northern side of Shelby Farms Park to the west of Germantown Parkway.