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VOL. 133 | NO. 82 | Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mayor Strickland Takes Third Budget Proposal to City Council

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland takes his third budget proposal to the Memphis City Council Tuesday, April 24, opening City Hall’s budget season with what is expected to be a budget that keeps the city property tax rate stable.

Strickland’s budget address is at the top of the council’s agenda when it meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the day.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland takes his third budget proposal to the Memphis City Council Tuesday as the council delays final votes on two de-annexation proposals and considers a fourth question for the November ballot. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

The council’s budget committee sets the stage for hearings on the budget proposal with an 8:35 a.m. session. At the committee meeting, budget committee chairman Edmund Ford Jr. is expected to map out the schedule of hearings by the committee and a date for final votes on the operating budget as well as the capital improvements budget and the setting of a tax rate all before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

In his first two budgets, Strickland touted the “brilliant at the basics” philosophy of focusing on basic city services like public safety and infrastructure needs that won him the mayor’s office in the 2015 city elections.

He is expected to continue to do that in his budget address while leaving room in his budget proposal for council members to make some changes.

The wiggle room in the first two budget proposals is credited with the council approving budgets and tax rates well before the start of the fiscal year and with little debate.

The budget committee will also hear more Tuesday about a proposal by council member Martavius Jones to add another question to the November ballot. Jones’ proposal would amend the city charter by requiring council approval of any city contract of more than $250,000.

The referendum ordinance specifically says the change is modeled on the requirement in county government of county commission approval of contracts over a specific dollar amount.

The provision, if approved by city voters, would also require council approval of city contracts for professional services such as engineers, architects and attorneys without competitive bids.

And if the council directs a mayor to execute a contract and the mayor refuses, under terms of the proposal, the contract would become valid with the signature of the council chairman and approval of the council.

Currently, under the mayor-council form of government, the mayor is recognized as the city’s sole contracting authority, which is a basic tenet of the so-called “strong mayor” form of government in place in Memphis since 1968.

If the referendum ordinance is approved by the council on three readings, it would join three other charter change ballot questions on the November ballot. Those proposals would repeal any use of instant-runoff or ranked-choice voting in city elections; eliminate the runoff provision required in the city charter currently for all single-member district city council races in which no candidate gets a majority of the votes cast and expand the current term limit of two consecutive terms of office for the mayor and council members to three consecutive terms of office effective immediately. The change would permit six current council members who are term limited from running in 2019 to run again in 2019.

At a 1:30 p.m. committee session, council members discuss the use of historic overlay districts two weeks after the council gave final approval to a Cooper-Young district. The vote came after lots of debate among council members about how much discretion the Memphis Landmarks Commission would have in enforcing the design and building standards within such districts.

Some council members want there to be an appeal to the council of Landmarks Commission decisions. As the ordinance currently stands, the only appeal of a landmarks decision is to take the matter to Chancery Court.

Meanwhile, the council votes Tuesday on the second of three readings of an ordinance creating a Crosstown Historic Overlay District.

At a 9:45 a.m. committee session, the council discusses a change in the city-county Economic Development Growth Engine agency that would require the EDGE president to report to the EDGE board instead of the city and county mayors, who appoint the EDGE president.

Shelby County commissioners are considering a similar proposal.

The council could also discuss calls last week for new rules governing property tax abatements – or PILOTs – payments in lieu of taxes – awarded by EDGE. The proposal would be to eliminate percentage goals for minority business contracts as a qualification for the tax breaks.

A joint city council-county commission working group is exploring whether the term of the PILOTs should instead be extended for companies that voluntarily meet such goals.

In planning and development items, the council is also expected to set a May 8 public hearing and council vote on a set of ordinances creating the Madison Midtown Planned Development -- a set of 230 apartments in four buildings with surface parking on what are now three parcels of land at 1544 Madison Avenue west of North Avalon Street. Among the partners in the development is council chairman Berlin Boyd.

The council will also set a May 8 public hearing and council vote on a five-lot residential single family development on less than an acre of land at 4171 Poplar Ave. in the Poplar Williamsburg Planned Development.

The council will delay third and final reading votes on the de-annexation of flood plain land in southwest Memphis that is uninhabited and the part of Eads that is within the city Memphis until the council’s May 22 session. The two are the first in a set of five de-annexations proposed by the city administration.

The council votes Tuesday on a resolution that would “consider and accept” raising the pay of all full-time city employees to a minimum of $32,240 a year or $15.50 an hour. The resolution follows a proposal by Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson to raise the pay of all full-time employees of the school system at least $15 an hour.

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173