Final tally: 'City Paper' looks at budget highlights, council votes

Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 9:05pm
By Pierce Greenberg and Joey Garrison

For the first time in seven years, property tax is going up in Davidson County. The Metro Council approved Councilman Sean McGuire’s revised $1.71 billion budget by a 32-8 margin on Tuesday.

For residents with a $145,000 home, the average home price in Davidson County, the increase will amount to an additional $192 a year.

McGuire, chair of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, drafted an alternate budget but didn’t alter Mayor Karl Dean’s originally proposed 53-cent tax increase. Instead, McGuire kept Dean’s tax increase, found $8.6 million in cuts and proposed to transfer that money into Metro reserves.

Discussion at the council meeting centered around seven council members’ proposed amendments, which ranged from doing away with a tax increase to other incremental decreases on Dean’s proposal. Councilman Robert Duvall was the budget’s biggest critic, calling it a “tax and spend plan.”

“In my opinion, if we don’t stop the spending now, we’re headed for a train wreck as we move forward,” Duvall said, maintaining that Nashvillians “overwhelmingly” disapprove of the tax increase.

Of the eight council members who voted against the tax increase and budget, four of them are seeking positions in the state House of Representatives this fall. Bo Mitchell (District 50), Jason Potts (District 53) and Darren Jernigan (District 60) are running as Democrats, while Robert Duvall (District 59) is a Republican.


Highlights:

• Metro Nashville Public Schools received a $45.1 million bump in the budget, which was still $3.5 million less than what Mayor Dean proposed. The school board, not the council, will be tasked with finding those cuts. “It is my hope that the school board will make reductions in areas that do not impact classroom instruction,” McGuire wrote in a letter on June 15.

• During budget talks, the Metro Nashville Police Department and the mayor’s office suggested that without a tax increase, the city might be forced to lay off 200 officers. The passed budget reduces Dean’s $168 million MNPD allocation by only $211,900. McGuire proposed that MNPD could reduce overtime hours in order to compromise for the cut. MNPD Chief Steve Anderson said the $6.5 million bump would help fund the Madison precinct and a new DNA lab.

• The budget includes a $297.7 million capital-spending plan, which Dean said would be one of the most largest infrastructure spending plans in recent years. The plan includes approximately $97 million for school additions and expansions, $62 million for Public Works and $34 million for Metro Parks. The money will go toward roads, sidewalks, riverfront expansion and new bus rapid-transit “lite” on Murfreesboro Pike.

 

Other decreases in the passed budget compared to Dean’s budget:

• More than $900,000 in subsidies is being cut from the Nashville Farmers’ Market, Municipal Auditorium and the state fair. Those entities will be able to come before the council to make their case for funding during the next fiscal year.

• $80,000 is being cut from the Metro Council’s travel budget.

• The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s proposed budget was decreased by $250,000, but McGuire said that wouldn’t affect the mayor’s plan for a new bus rapid-transit line to Antioch.

 

How they voted

 

YES

At-large – Megan Barry; At-large – Ronnie Steine; At-large – Tim Garrett; At-large – Charlie Tygard; At-large – Jerry Maynard

Districts

1- Lonnell Matthews Jr.

2- Frank Harrison

3 – Walter Hunt

4 – Brady Banks

5 – Scott Davis

6 – Peter Westerholm

7 – Anthony Davis

9 – Bill Pridemore

10 – Doug Pardue

12 – Steve Glover

13 – Josh Stites

14 – Bruce Stanley

15 – Phil Claiborne

17 – Sandra Moore

18 – Burkley Allen

19 – Erica Gilmore

20 – Buddy Baker

21 – Edith Langster

22 – Sheri Weiner

24 – Jason Holleman

25 – Sean McGuire

26 – Chris Harmon

27 – Davette Blalock

29 – Karen Johnson

31 – Fabian Bedne

32 – Jacobia Dowell

34 – Carter Todd

 

NO

Districts

8 – Karen Bennett

11 – Darren Jernigan

16 – Tony Tenpenny

23 – Emily Evans

28 – Duane Dominy

30 – Jason Potts

33 – Robert Duvall

35 – Bo Mitchell

14 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 6/25/12 at 7:21

Page 9 of the Capital Improvements Budget includes 55 MILLION dollars for a new Sounds Stadium for fiscal year 2012-2013.

When did the Council debate this? Why is this being slipped by us?

By: govskeptic on 6/25/12 at 7:36

$80,000 cut from Council travel budget should reduce it to ZERO. So,
what is the remaining balance for these Pros to attend for the good
of the taxpayers! Noted over the years is the fact that some Democrats
vote NO on tax increases only when they are running for re-election or
another office and are comfortable that the increase will pass without
their individual votes!

By: budlight on 6/25/12 at 7:54

Kosh, they are slick, aren't they? We should not be using our tax dollars for any sports venue! Do these people who are getting our tax dollars give us a break at the ticket office? No, we still have to pay an arm and a let to see any type of football, baseball or other sport!

By: Rasputin72 on 6/25/12 at 7:59

I have several friends who are first generation money who live in Brentwood. They are good people and thank me for my contribution through Davidson County taxation towards their entertainment. The tax on a one million dollars home in DAVIDSON COUNTY at least in Belle Meade,Green Hills,Hillwood is usually between 11,000 and 12,000 dollars a year. The taxes on a one million dollar home in Brentwood is around 7,000 dollars a year.

If you deduct the taxes and subtract the private school tuition of an average of 10,000 dollars a year (higher at Franklin Road Academy,MBA,Harpeth Hall,University School and Ensworth the savings by living in Williamson County is around $15,000 dollars a year. My guess is that one would have to earn an additional $22,000 dollars a year in order to come up with the extra need if $15,000 dollars a year.

For some 22,000 is a pittance. For others namely a middle class family earning around $125,000 dollars a year $22,000 dollars is a lot of money just to live in Davidson County.

By: frodo on 6/25/12 at 8:15

The fact that a large percent of the populace does not want this increase gets little traction in the press. In this ho-hum, who-do-the-citizens-think-they-are-anyway context, why even mention that several members voting "no" seek higher office? Unless it is shameful to represent the will of the electorate. When will more councilmembers dedicate themselves to fiscal responsibility and fixing the hole in the bottom of the city treasury?

By: noitall on 6/25/12 at 9:20

Gee, Pierce and Joey, this is really some great reporting. I bet it took a ton of work to tally all those council votes, pore through the press release with highlights of how the money would be spent, then put it altogether to create a story.

How 'bout some real reporting on this issue:

1. What is Metro's budget for 2012-13 compared to ten years ago? And what departments have enjoyed the highest increases?

2. What was Metro's population ten years ago vs. today? What are we spending per citizen today vs. 10 years ago?

3. How do property taxes in Nashville compare with other cities of similar size: Austin, Raleigh, Charlotte, etc.

4. Sales Tax Collections now vs. 5, 10 years ago and what percentage of the Metro budget comes from property taxes vs. the local option portion of the sales tax?

5. And the million dollar question: What is the estimate of incremental sales tax revenue generated from the new convention center in its first 5 years of operation and what kind of impact will those taxes have on the budget going forward? (Not the taxes on lodging and other items that will pay for the center, but the sales tax revenue that the city expects reap as a result of all these new conventions we'll be attracting,)

By: odie on 6/25/12 at 9:30

Perhaps those in the council have gone beyond the no taxes ever mantra and realized where the spending goes and what couldn't be cut. The cuts many are proposing might be do able but there are often unintended consequences and they must be discussed longer than 2 month. Close General hospital, stop MTA, close the farmers market. Maybe but there are still going to be costs and maybe the council thought about them.

Kosh, the capital budget was on public hearing the same day as the operating budget. Very few rose to speak then. You can register to receive the council agenda via email at their website.

If you live in a million dollar home, you are not middle class.
For 18 years employees hae been able to live where they choose. What evidence can you use to show service rendered depends where you live?

Noitall, #4 can be found on the Metro finance website.

By: girliegirl on 6/25/12 at 9:36

$600 per month in taxes at this household. Yet, when the school system failed us miserably, and we discovered severe abuse at the local middle school, we had no choice but to withdraw our children from public school and enroll them in a private Christian school. Now we're paying an add'l $22,000 a year, just to keep our children safe and to secure them an education. Had we moved to Williamson County, they could've attended a public school, received a better education, and the environment would have not been so physically abusive. You can buy a pretty snazzy "estate" with that additional $22K per year. Better still, the kids could ride a school bus, saving the roads from one extra SUV back and forth twice a day each day.

By: jpbrody on 6/25/12 at 12:31

jpbrody

A couple of thoughts . . .

To Rasputin72: For an overall well-thought-out response, thank you. For this, "For others namely a middle class family earning around $125,000 dollars a year", I say whaat?

Second, I wrote my Councilman (Phil Claiborne) to express my concerns about this property tax increase. I was basically blown off with a perfunctory, it's been seven years since an increase and that "fixed costs" mandated a raise.

Seven years? Fixed costs? So? You know what we do "around the house" about fixed costs? WE CUT THEM!

Finally, you cannot tell me that it always has to be the schools that suffer or that police and fire personnel must be laid off. This is political smack at its worst; I'm tired of it and I suspect many a voter is too.

How about one less computer. Heck, forget that, how about one less program? How about forgetting that largesse to the stadium? I am a FIRM believer that if the marketplace wants it, the marketplace will provide it.

Government must CEASE to be as large, as groping, as manipulative and overbearing as it is. My mantra is and will remain, there is enough overlap, unnecessary spending and corruption to balance the budget and provide for the citizenry.

That's it. Be calm. Carry on. Or has the time passed to be calm?

By: Ask01 on 6/25/12 at 6:10

jpbrody, I believe the time to be calm has indeed passed.

No one in government seems to have even addressed the ideas of cutting funding to our pro sports teams, slashing salaries for those in executive positions, (starting of course, with Mayor Dean,) or instituting a moratorium on public art.

Likewise, no one would even discuss how, if our excuse for municipal leadership was so dedicated to public education, safety, and services, those very items had been long neglected, requiring extra money,or were in danger of being the very items to suffer at political hands if no extra tax money were forthcoming.

My council representative voted against the tax increase, so I am very happy with him. Never mind the fact he is seeking a higher office. At least he stood up to Mayor Dean, and I like to imagine gave the mayor two fingers up for me. (I know he didn't actually, but the idea of such an act makes me happy.)

I did receive a reply from a council member I know who spouted the same nonsense we have been reading in the Karl Dean Newsletter, also called the Tennessean.

Needless to say, I won't be associating with this person again.

Sadly, all we can do is agitate the electorate trying to throw these unfaithful servants out of office.

One could also ostracize the council members who voted yes by boycotting businesses they own or are employed by, and any social group in which they participate.

In the end, however, we must realize all politicians have no regard for the middle class, and act accordingly.

By: jpbrody on 6/25/12 at 9:11

jpbrody

Ask01,

Thanks! And you hit the nail on the head. I love art. I tolerate sports, but recognize that they can be a great economic benefit to the city.

However, your examples are illustrative that there are areas that can be cut (or dramatically trimmed), without sorrowfully casting our eyes down and whining that we're going to have to cut fire, police and teachers.

I'm proud of your councilman; others should have the same fortitude.

I'm pretty furious.

By: parnell3rd on 6/26/12 at 12:13

Well, never thought I'd say thanks to the liberal rag City paper for posting the council members votes.
I'm sure the 32 yes votes also voted to give Gaylord a $17 million tax break, then voted yes on giving Dolly Parton and Gaylord another several million dollar tax break for the new water park.
Once again Mayor Karl Dean proves that politicians are liars.

By: parnell3rd on 6/26/12 at 12:16

We do not have a representative government in Nashville. We're ruled by tyrants. Republican and Democrates.
But Nashvillians keep electing carpet bagging northerers as mayor.

By: Vuenbelvue on 6/26/12 at 10:20

Current awful news for Stockton, California on entering bankruptcy - Shows how City government's over borrow and build without seeing that it may come to a end and in their case Wells Fargo Bank and others have foreclosed on three city parking garages and the new city hall plus financial problems with pensions and firing of employees. I think this legitimizes concerns of those on these blogs here since Davidson County is $2 billion in debt today.

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120612/A_NEWS/206120313