Shelby County mayor shares plans to invest in education, public health and safety in budget proposal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Lee Harris released an update on a $1.4 billion proposed Shelby County budget.

The budget contains no property tax increases, no cuts and gives a 1.5 percent pay raise to all county employees.

The budget also raises the minimum hourly wage for county government workers to $15.29 per hour, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

Part of the budget will also go to investments in education, public health and public safety.

From the relesae:

We have all lived through one of the most difficult periods in Shelby County history. At the beginning of March 2020, there were virtually no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the entire United States. Almost overnight, this infectious and deadly pathogen spread across the country and invaded our community.

This past year has brought pain to Shelby County. More than 92,000 residents contracted COVID-19. Our unemployment rate peaked at 14.8 percent in July 2020 before retreating to 6.8 percent as of February 2021. Thanks to federal CARES funding, and a lot of work, we are able to blunt some of the negative economic effects of the pandemic.

But, there is still pain throughout our community. Therefore, I don’t believe this is the time to raise taxes. Too many in our county are still on the road to recovery. What’s more, our property tax rate is already one of the highest in the state.

Even without a tax increase, we will invest in education.

The mayor’s announcement highlighted the $8.5 million allotted this year, like last year, to Pre-K and early Pre-K programs.

The budget includes $427 million for schools, in addition to $30 million in school construction funding for the year, the release said.

The mayor said Shelby County will continue to fund the COVID response unit until the virus is defeated.

$32 million will also be invested over six years in the Shelby County Fire Department. This will allow the department to hire 41 firefighters and purchase new safety equipment and technologies.

Two near fire stations are planned, according to the mayor’s release.

One is in south Cordova and the other is in southeast Shelby County. Construction and equipment costs of $10 million are included in the proposal.

The County Commission will review the budget.

More funding could be requested by other elected officials, the release said.