After several months of hearings and input from department heads, the Meridian City Council on Tuesday passed a $37 million budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year with no increase in taxes on residents.
Included in this year’s budget, which is set to begin Oct. 1, is about $9 million for the police department, $8.2 million for public works, $7.5 million for fire and about $2 million for community development.
The budget includes funding for more than 90 positions within the police department. Police funding was a priority for the council as MPD has been operating with less than 50 percent staffing. The budget provides funding for all MPD positions, allowing the department to hire enough officers to reach full staffing.
Council President and Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas said the budget also includes unallocated funds in the legislative budget to be put toward donations to non-profits.
“In this budget we’ve put some money in the legislative budget to deal with donations and grants,” Thomas said Tuesday.
The initial city budget had $475,000 allocated for donations and grants, with about $100,000 not already obligated. In August, the council agreed to take 2 percent of payroll, about $596,000, to help additional organizations and non-profits.
Thomas explained in August the city had more than 100 unfilled positions, and while the intent was to fill all of them, it would not be possible to reach 100 percent staffing by the end of October when 8.3 percent, of the payroll budget would be used. Taking the 2 percent from payroll budget, he said, would allow the city to help more organizations without impacting city services or employee salaries.
Some of the legislative budget could also be used to cover unexpected expenses in city departments if needed.
In Tuesday’s meeting, the city council left open the possibility of further changes to the budget as council members consider requests from police officers and public works employees to raise salaries.
Ward 5 Councilwoman Ty Bell Lindsey encouraged the city administration to find a way to increase employees’ pay.
“Is that something we can do moving towards the future, with our budget to try to do something more for the police department, the public works, people who spoke out,” she asked.
Chief Administration Officer Tim Miller said a pay increase was something the city administration also wanted to do, and it was definitely something the city could look at doing going forward. The challenge, he said, was finding the right way to fund it.
“Yes is the answer. Now how we get there as a group, we’ll have to all work on that together,” he said. “We all want the same thing.”
The budget passed with a 4-0 vote; Ward 3 Councilman Joseph Norwood was absent.