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Councilman Offers Alternative to Mayor Young’s Proposed FY 2025 Budget

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With FY 2025 two weeks away, an alternative to City of Memphis’ Mayor Paul Young’s budget proposals – which include a 75-cent property tax increase – was presented during the Monday, June 17 Memphis City Council budget meeting.

“My goal is to present a budget that has close to, or no property tax increase,” said Councilman Chase Carlisle.

Instead, Carlisle’s $809 million proposed budget calls for a mixture of additional fees, cost-cutting and accounting procedures. It is estimated to generate $819 million in revenue.

With no tax increase, the city is estimated to bring in $781 million.

Young, meanwhile, has placed three incremental budget options on the table. They range from stripped down to $20 million in new programming. All three options would require additional revenue. Full funding of the mayor’s proposals presents a $100 million deficit.

State law requires the city to pass a balanced budget.

“Every time we have progressed, or had a conversation the expenses just continue to go up and up…,” said Carlisle. “Right now, the mayor has that proposed against $886 million worth of expenses. That is the gap.”

Carlisle’s back-to-the-drawing board proposal would trim most new spending.

It also increases the city’s weekly solid waste fee to $12. The additional revenue would cover 5 percent raises for AFSCME employees working in the city’s Solid Waste Division. The fee would also eliminate an annual $2 million general fund expense from the division.

Young’s proposal calls for rate increases. They would be phased-in over three years. The rate would rise to $6.89 in FY2025.

Monday’s pitch also raises the city’s wheel tax from $30 to $100 annually, to bring in another $26 million annually.

The proposal also requests the administration to find unused ARPA funds; sunsets two paid holidays for city employees; eliminates the council’s grant program; directs the Young administration cut 3.5 percent of material and supply expenses at their discretion.

While Carlisle’s budget proposal offers an offramp to higher property taxes, members were lukewarm to the proposal.

“I think we should pick and choose some of the ideas you just brought up. I think some are actually good ideas,” said Councilman Jeff Warren. “But I think we need to realize that we have one chance, probably two – this year and next year – we can raise property taxes.”

He added that the council needed to find a “continual funding mechanism,” instead of relying on faulty revenue and budget forecasts. The mayor’s 75-cent proposal would represent a starting point in negotiations that could be pared down.

Warren is also supportive of several of the administration’s proposals to address crime and homelessness. And with the economy’s continued resilience – including easing concerns about inflation – investment in the city was overdue.

“Just to say, ‘Nope, we’re not going to do anything,’ then, next year we’re behind the eight ball and we don’t have any money coming in at all…. It doesn’t make much sense to me,” said Warren.

Council member Edmund Ford, Sr. offered a middle-ground property tax increase between .45 cents to .52 cents. A cent increase represents around $1.4 million in revenue.

Another member called the city’s management of the finances “dysfunctional.”

“The expenditures and the money that has gone out, and what has been given is absolutely, totally embarrassing and disrespectful…There’s going to have to be a tax increase, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s going to have to be some necessary cuts. Just like you run your households,” said Councilwoman Yolanda Cooper-Sutton.

The city is wrapping up its $799 million FY2024 budget passed by the previous administration. However, estimates for the upcoming budget have swelled to $881 million, for a $82 million gap.

Council members will discuss the budget again on June 24. During the meeting, members are expected to introduce amendments to the proposals.

A vote will be held on June 25. The FY 2025 budget takes effect on July 1.

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