The Metro Council Tuesday night passed by a 38-2 vote an operating budget that, with only some minor tweaking, mirrors Mayor Bill Purcell's originally proposed $1.23 billion budget. In the new budget are monies for Metro employee pay raises (4 percent this year and 3 percent the next two, as recommended by the Mercer study), a new pay plan for the city's fire and police personnel, and $442.5 million for schools.
Councilman-at-large Howard Gentry Jr., chairman of the
council's Budget and Finance Committee, told his
colleagues before they voted on the budget,
which includes the mayor's 88-cent property tax increase, he felt comfortable with the package.
"The Budget and Finance Committee has worked hard to
create a budget that meets the needs of the community and the council," Gentry said. Gentry's fellow council members praised the first-term councilman for his diligence in the budget process, giving him a standing ovation at the conclusion of the 40-minute budget approval process.
"This is the legacy we will leave to this community,"
Councilman-at-large Chris Ferrell said. The budget includes a reduction of $4.13 million to certain department operating budgets (including those in
finance, planning and information services) and additional expenditures and appropriations of the same $4.13 million total in other areas. For example, Metro General Sessions Court Judge Gloria Dumas will recieve $26,913 to hire a referee to ease what council members feel is a heavy court load for her Environmental Court.
Another item in the budget is $250,000 for the
continuation of the city's community policing program.
Hillsboro Village Councilwoman Ginger Hausser helped
secure the monies for the program, which had exhausted its federal funds.
"Some communities may want bike patrols," Hausser said
following the meeting. "Others may want walking officers during the weekends near ball fields, college campuses or churges. We want to create that kind of flexibility in this program."
Speaking in his office following the one-hour meeting,
Purcell said he is very pleased with the new budget, which takes effect July 1.
"It's a very good night for Nashville," the mayor said.
"[The council and I] really do share the same priorities. This budget meets those priorities." The two dissenting voters were Antioch Councilman Jason
Alexander and Inglewood Councilman Lawrence Hart.
Alexander told his colleagues before they voted that he had held a public meeting recently. Roughly 120 people attended, 98 of whom did not support the 88-cent tax hike. "My responsibility is to the people in my district," Alexander said.
Hart, whose district contains many senior citizens, called the tax hike "intolerable." "I certainly support a pay increase for employees and schools, but I can't do it if it means putting seniors out of their homes," Hart said.
The 88-cent tax hike will help generate $111 million to fuel the budget, which is $119 million more (a 10.7 percent increase) than the soon-to-end fiscal year budget. Relating to the budget, the council passed a ordinance approving the change in Metro's certified tax rate to $3.70 per $100 of assessed property value for those in the Urban Services District and $2.96 for those in the General Services District. With the 88-cent tax hike, those in the USD will pay $4.58 per $100 of assessed property and those in the GSD will pay $3.84. The current figures are $4.24 and $3.39 for the UDS and GSD respectively