Three neighborhood community centers could close their doors, and public libraries may reduce hours under potential cuts to Metro’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling has asked Metro department heads to analyze the effect of 3 percent cuts to their budgets. Directors have been sitting down with Mayor Karl Dean and his administration this week in preparation for a proposed Metro government budget, to come later this spring, for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The budget for the current fiscal year is $1.52 billion.
Tommy Lynch, director of the Metro Parks and Recreation Department, said Wednesday a full 3 percent cut would require his department to close East Nashville’s Cleveland Park Community Center, the West Park Community Center off Morrow Road and a still-to-be determined center. He said the third would likely be a small neighborhood center, perhaps near the Coleman Regional Community Center.
Lynch said the West Park center is located in the city’s least used park, adding the city had already identified the center to close so that it could be used in a different fashion.
With the possible closure of the Cleveland Park center, Lynch said the plan would be to move its workers to the nearby McFerrin regional community center “so that we can enhance the programs.” He said the scenario wouldn’t call for layoffs.
Donna Nicely, director of the Nashville Public Library, said the department’s area libraries –– the largest libraries including Green Hills, Hermitage and Madison –– would decrease from 50 hours of operation per week to 40 hours by eliminating Sunday hours. The downtown library would remain operating on Sunday.
“For us, when we’re talking about a 3 percent cut, we would have to reduce staff, and if we reduce staff, we’d have to reduce the hours of libraries,” Nicely said. “That’s just the way it has to be.”
Nicely said she would like to ensure there’s at least one library in each geographical area of the county open Monday through Thursday during the evening hours. Additional staffing costs for the next budget are required to open the new Goodlettsville Library.
Of the possible library cuts, Dean stressed, “Those aren’t proposed reductions. Where we end up, we don’t know yet.”
During the budget cycle, cuts in various departments are frequently discussed but typically not implemented to their full extent. Last year, Riebeling had Metro departments look at a potential 7.5 percent budget cut, but reductions were nowhere near that figure.
Dean’s and the Metro Council’s decision last year to restructure the city’s debt has freed up funds in the short term, perhaps meaning a full 3 percent cut won’t occur for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
It’s been an eventful year for both the public parks and libraries. The parks department has completed a new Centennial Park Master Plan and is overseeing the renovation of Rose Park through a partnership with Belmont University. A new McCabe Community Center near Sylvan Park is slated to open this summer, and construction on a new center at Sevier Park will begin soon.
Meanwhile, Nicely said statistics suggest library usage has increased this year. Along with the opening of the Goodlettsville Library, the department has also launched its Limitless Library program, which gives Metro students access to public library books from their schools. She said 46 percent of Metro students have library cards.
Of note, Nicely said previous plans to build a new Bellevue library at the Bellevue Center mall are no longer on the table. She said her department is reviewing other sites for a new Bellevue library.