VOL. 129 | NO. 109 | Thursday, June 5, 2014
Budget Changes Include Cooper-Young Garage
By Bill Dries
A Cooper-Young parking garage and a pool of capital funding divided equally among the seven Memphis City Council districts are the two biggest ticket items in the way of still-tentative budget amendments proposed by council members.
Memphis City Council members proposed a set of budget amendments Tuesday that include funding for a Cooper-Young parking garage and other proposals from council members. Final votes on the amendments are two weeks away.
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
The Tuesday, June 3, budget wrap-up in council committee sessions was the first of two such amending sessions, which will resume June 17.
The amendments are mostly additions to the $596 million operating budget and $83 million capital budget proposed earlier this year by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
Among the amendments presented Tuesday in budget committee, but not voted on yet, were:
– $3.6 million in capital funding for a Cooper-Young parking garage, proposed by council member Janis Fullilove.
– $14 million in capital funding to be divided equally among the seven single-member council districts, proposed by council member Wanda Halbert, with a freeze on all nonemergency, nonessential spending by the city for one year as an alternative.
– $1 million proposed by council member Joe Brown for Klondike revitalization.
– $525,000 to reinstate the city weights and measures bureau the council voted to abolish earlier this year, also proposed by Brown.
– $500,000 for the Frayser Neighborhood Council, proposed by council member Lee Harris, for the first of three years toward a seven-year revitalization plan. Harris had proposed taking $300,000 from revenue generated by red light cameras, as well as $120,000 from Greater Memphis Chamber funding, but there are doubts about whether the revenue from red light cameras can be used.
The budget committee, chaired by Harris, approved the following budget amendments:
– $1.2 million for a Memphis Fire Department recruit class, proposed by council member Shea Flinn, with funding to come from the Greater Memphis Chamber. This was approved after the council voted down a motion by council member Kemp Conrad to reduce the fire budget by the same amount, with fire brass determining where the money would be cut. Conrad’s argument is that it is savings from cutting down on sick leave abuse by firefighters.
– $2.6 million in capital funding for an expansion of Paul R. Lowry Road brought by the Port Commission.
– $25,000 proposed by Harris for the Memphis Fire Museum to fund school field trips, taken from Greater Memphis Chamber funding.
– $75,000 proposed by Harris, also taken from chamber funding, for training programs by Lifeline to Success, the Frayser-based rehabilitation program for men and women just released from prison.
The budget committee voted Tuesday on those items in which there were also proposals for how to come up with the additional money for additions to both budgets. It delayed action until the June 17 committee sessions on items for which council members didn’t offer sources of revenue.
“Don’t waste anybody’s time with nonsense,” Conrad said as the council adopted his suggestion to account for where the additional funding would come from.
Other council members quickly noted that Conrad didn’t say they had to account for the funding immediately.
“You are misinterpreting my resolution,” he said. “Just tell us how you are going to pay for it.”
Halbert’s suggestion of splitting some share of overall capital funding equally among the seven council districts has been discussed before. Halbert said the idea is a reaction to what she considers to be “cherry picking” of construction projects that leave some districts out as other projects surface rapidly and win seven council votes just as rapidly.
“I can’t keep giving you money for certain projects while I’m watching people in other districts do without for 20 and 30 years,” she said.
Business leaders from the Cooper-Young Historic District were present as Fullilove pitched the garage as “a citywide kind of project.”
Conrad’s pitch to cut fire department funding to force changes in its sick leave and paid leave policies reopened the council’s ongoing dilemma about whether budget cuts aimed at directing the administration to make specific changes can really force those changes.
“I don’t believe at this point that’s going to happen,” council member Harold Collins said, adding that it takes “respect” between the council and administration.
“Taking the money away won’t solve it,” agreed council member Myron Lowery.
“The only power we have is the power of the purse,” Conrad replied.
Those budget amendments offered Tuesday were heavy in pulling city funding of the Greater Memphis Chamber, which in recent months has positioned itself in the council’s upcoming decision about switching the city’s new hires and unvested employees to a 401(k)-like defined contributions pension plan.
The chamber has been vocal in its push for passage of the change in the current budget season.
Council members kept a running tentative tally of how much city funding to the chamber was left as they suggested more budget amendments.
“I’ve got a novel idea,” Conrad said toward the end of the session. “Can we not spend every dollar in an account?”