It's a done deal. Memphis city leaders hammered out a budget compromise after hours of debate and more than half a dozen failed votes.
After initially rejecting a proposed property tax increase, the Memphis city council finally passed a rate of three dollars and 40 cents. The plan gives city workers a four-point-six percent pay raise. That's the same percentage the city council took from city workers a few years ago. But the deal approved by the council includes several spending cuts: 50 layoffs, the elimination of 300 city jobs, and the public safety budget will be reduced by two and a half percent.
The plan also adds money for neighborhoods. There's more cash for libraries, community centers, code enforcement officers and MATA. Councilman Harold Collins drafted the compromise and many of the ideas came from Councilman Edmund Ford JR's original budget plan. And he urged the council to back his property tax increase. "$10 a year, $12.50 on a $125,000 house, find it in your gall to serve your city because it so desperately needs you right now, " Collins said.
There are some tough decisions ahead for the Wharton administration. Mayor A C Wharton will have to decide how to implement all of the council's budget cuts. "It not only deals with the debt for this year but the debt for fiscal year 2015 and the debt for fiscal year 2016. That'll be the first time that the city of Memphis has done something like that coming out of a really deep hole. So you might say ‘Oh boy that's a tax increase!' but it addresses something that won't have to be addressed for the next 2 to 3 years," Mayor Wharton said.
The council also passed the capital improvement budget for next year. Next year's city budget includes a 2.5% cut or $6 million to the Memphis police department's budget. It will be up to MPD Director Toney Armstrong to decide how to implement the cuts. "It meant a lot to me not to see anybody lose their job here tonight, not to see anybody laid-off so if we have to sacrifice and tighten up our belts a little bit I'm willing to do that," Director Armstrong said. The budget calls for 50 layoffs from the city workforce, but they mayor says they'll avoid laying off police officers or firefighters. Director Armstrong says he'll start looking for places to cut the budget this morning.
FOX13 News reporter Matt Gerien contributed to this report.