Thumbnail: The proposed 2021 City of Memphis budget is about $15 million less than the actual spending in 2019 and $30 million below the forecast spending in the 2020 budget.  The majority of the decrease is in grants and subsidies while MPD’s proposed budget for 2021 is more than $9 million more than the adopted budget for 2020.


The proposed City of Memphis budget for FY 2021 dramatically reflects the damaging impact of Covid-19 with a proposed budget for the coming year that is about $30 million less than the forecasts for FY 2020. 

To offset the significant blow to its revenues, grants and subsidies are bearing the brunt of the impact.  The proposed budget has $35.1 million for grants and subsidies, which compares to the current adopted budget of $50.2 million and the forecast budget for this year of $68.9 million.

While protesters call for the “defunding of the police,” the proposed budget for MPD increased from $272.8 million in the current adopted budget to $282.1 million in the proposed budget. 

It’s the largest increase of any city division in actual funding; however, in terms of percentage increase, City Courts increased by 17.7%, compared to the MPD increase of 3.4%.

The “defund the police” chants are a plea for cities to reallocate money from police budgets and invest it in services like neighborhood revitalization, housing, parks, libraries, and interventions.

While the chant’s meaning is regularly distorted by right wing extremists, there is logic in this more balanced budgeting approach.  After all, in the past four decades, the cost of policing in the U.S. has tripled to $115 billion a year although crime has fallen. 

The following is the percentage increase or decrease for each division, the amount of the funding increase or decrease (comparing the FY 20 adopted budget to the proposed FY 21 budget):

+17.7%      + $1,018,852 – City Court Clerk

+4.4%        + $8,000,278 – Memphis Fire Department

+3.4%        + $9,327,585 – Memphis Police Department

+2.8%        + $542,300 – Executive

+2.0%        + $437,359 – Libraries­­

+1.2%        + $10,059 – Judicial City Courts

-.9%           – $151,462 – Public Works

-1.0%         – $129,380 – Information Systems

-3.6%         – $521,298 – City Attorney

-5.2%         – $1.266,400 – General Services

-5.8%         – $517,935 – Human Resources

-6.0%        – $2,270,325 – Parks

-7.1%         – $370,305 – Housing and Community Development

-7.8%         – $199,342 – City Council

-8.6%         -$1,302,294 – Finance and Administration

-8.7%         – $764,635 – City Engineer

-29.9%      – $15,056,355 – Grants and Subsidies

Some of these numbers may have changed somewhat as a result of budget hearings, but because government budgets are moral documents, they speak to city priorities.


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