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.

Stand for Children fellows and volunteers held an action to celebrate Rosa Parks’ birthday and honor her legacy of advocacy and action for transportation equity. Through the work of the Moral Budget Coalition, we created a deep canvass designed to begin having conversations with people about the need for a community centered budgeting process, and how it could benefit public services like our public transportation system.

On Saturday, Feb. 4th, we went out to the Benjamin Hooks Library for our first deep canvass to give out hand warmers, talk to bus riders about their experience with MATA, and share our vision for a better transit system. This was many of our fellows’ first time participating in any type of canvass, and they were able to practice their skills and have deep conversations with riders. We captured some powerful stories about the hardships people face using our current public transit system. One of those stories, told by a local rider named Tim has been included below. 

Tim’s Testimony

We look forward to continuing to have these conversations with people about their lived experiences, and we hope that these stories will compel our elected leaders to provide better funding and transparency that will make our vision for a better public transportation system possible.