A Moral Budget for a Safer Memphis

In light of the persistent need to fund necessary community services in Memphis and Shelby County to improve our safety and wellbeing, the Moral Budget Coalition supports adding sustainable revenue to both the City and County budgets. 

Conservative state laws and decades of fiscally conservative local leadership have limited our options for providing the resources we need to invest in under-resourced people and communities, so increasing property tax is one of the only remaining progressive avenues to raise our local revenue. As we have expressed in previous budget cycles, the Moral Budget Coalition supports efforts to raise revenue for both the city and the county to invest in public transit (MATA), affordable housing, school facilities, Regional One, youth programs, and other services that promote our health and well-being. 

A budget is a moral document. Currently, our local budgets allot a disproportionate portion of funding to police and the criminal justice system, instead of expanding critical social services. In fact, the conservative revenue-neutral state law, along with a constant local focus on lowering the property tax rate, ensures that we will not keep pace with inflation, much less increase revenue required for expansion of critical services. 

Lowering the property tax rate over the last 20 years has notably benefited the people living in areas that have seen the greatest increase in their property values (East Memphis, Downtown, Midtown, Poplar Corridor). Our under-resourced communities (majority Black) are left to suffer from the lack of investments in social services and supports that could drive economic mobility. 

During the 2023 budget cycle, we led an email campaign on the City and County levels to urge City Council to vote to increase property taxes to fund healthcare and our public transit system, and to urge the County to increase property taxes to fund new schools and a hospital upgrade. Despite these efforts, both budgets were passed without property tax increases. Our work over the past three budget cycles has laid a solid foundation for more success in the future, and we look forward to continuing to work with Shelby County and the new Memphis administration to find ways to add sustainable revenue sources so we can fully fund the services that will contribute to our health and safety going forward.

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