Metro Council unanimously approves mayor's $1.59B budget

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10:07pm

The Metro Council approved the final budget of Mayor Karl Dean’s first term Tuesday, giving unanimous support for a $1.59 billion financial plan for the next fiscal year that avoids increasing property taxes but dips into rainy day funds to back schools.

“The importance of keeping the schools moving forward is much more important than sitting on a fund balance,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said. “That’s why we thought it’s a good use of those funds.”

The council made a few last-minute changes to Dean’s original proposal to retain probation and animal control officers, award pay increases to election poll workers and keep a brush removal program, among other minor budget items. The overall budget framework remained the same, however.

Under the slightly altered budget, the council also agreed to take an extra $1.5 million from the schools’ debt service fund to pay for a state-approved teacher pay increase. Doing so depletes more than $11 million from the schools’ debt service fund, reducing it from 15.7 percent to 11.6 percent of the total budget. Metro has a long-standing policy of staying above 5 percent.

The budget, an approximately 4 percent increase over the current operating budget, also relies on $13.4 million from the urban services general fund. The 2011-12 fiscal year begins July 1.

“There wasn’t a need to raise property taxes this year,” Riebeling said. “We’re thankful for the council’s support.”

More than 42 percent of the budget is allocated toward the funding of public schools, which requires $670.5 million, a funding level requested by the Metro Nashville Board of Education. Though Metro schools’ budget has increased, the district is currently dealing with the elimination of 334 teaching positions because of now-vanished federal stimulus dollars. Hundreds of displaced teachers are trying to land jobs at other Metro schools.

As part of the budget, the council also voted to give Metro employees a one-time 1.5 percent bonus, capped at $1,500. Some council members asked whether a larger investment would be needed in the future. 

“We’ve got to do better for them in the future,” At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine said.

Under the budget, nearly every Metro department experiences modest cuts ranging up to 3 percent. Despite the cuts, no Metro facilities are closing nor are any hours being reduced at institutions such as the public library system.

This year’s budget carves out additional funds for new projects such as construction of Madison and Midtown Hills police precincts, and a new DNA Crime Lab; a $3.3 million increase to maintain operations of the Metro Transit Authority; a $850,000 increase to open the new McCabe Community Center; and $788,600 to open a new Goodlettsville Library and to expand the Limitless Library program Metro library and school systems operate in tandem.

In other business, the Metro Council approved financial incentives that pave the way for IQT Solutions to move its headquarters to 60,000 square feet of space in the C.B. Ragland Building in SoBro. The move is expected to eventually net 900 jobs for downtown Nashville.

The grant is to not exceed $1.6 million, with $960,000 to be administered by the Industrial Development Board. IQT is to be paid $500 for each job created and up to $500,000 toward the cost of relocating. The grant is for five years.

9 Comments on this post:

By: budlight on 6/22/11 at 6:40

“The importance of keeping the schools moving forward is much more important than sitting on a fund balance,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said. “That’s why we thought it’s a good use of those funds.”

Yeah, Rich, let's get rid of those rainey day funds. Let's operate in the red forever and just spend spend spend! You need a Dave Ramsey course badly.

By: David_S on 6/22/11 at 6:47

See if you can spot the problem in the following statement:
"the district is currently dealing with the elimination of 334 teaching positions because of now-vanished federal stimulus dollars"

So the city took one-time money to hire a bunch of teachers that they knew, long-term, they couldn't afford, and now they are trying to keep those teachers by increasing their budget above their revenue and dipping into their savings? Wow. What do you think is going to happen next year? Do you think metro is going to suddenly bring in a whole lot more money? Are they going to win the lottery? Or should they maybe try cutting any spending made with 1-time money, and go from there?

By: Ingleweird on 6/22/11 at 8:23

@Davis_S:
After the mayor cruises to re-election, he can humor the option of a tax increase throughout the remainder of his tenure, which he may very well just have to do. After all, he is term limited, and does not risk any serious political fallout. Furthermore, Dean would be a fool to run for any other political office in Tennessee, so what does he have to lose?

By: left on 6/22/11 at 8:28

The city has been running off of federal money since dean took office. All departments are using the system. The recruit classes for the police and fire are federally funded, and the city is hoping that many will retire, so that salary can be moved to a new hire and pay less.

By: WickedTribe on 6/22/11 at 10:07

If a recession and a flood isn't the time to use a raindy day fund, then when is? The money isn't there to collect dust.

By: yucchhii on 6/22/11 at 10:26

For Mayor DINK, a rainy day fund is for spending on his little baby...the NEW convention cenetr that BOBODY wants!!!

By: gdiafante on 6/22/11 at 1:19

Who is BOBODY?

Wicked is right. What the hell is a rainy day fund for if no one ever wants to use it when it's raining?

By: spooky24 on 6/22/11 at 2:49

Someone has convinced Mayor Dean that he is going to be the next Phil Bredesen and appeal to the right and left as the popular former Governor did. Sorry, Mr. Mayor you have no chance of that. After renegotiation of the city's huge debt-and adding 60 million to the tab-a borrow and spend Mayor has emerged.
Reckless borrowing and dependance on Federal money for pet projects I don't need to mention will leave the city in a huge hole after his term limited reign is over.
His attitude that compares to the White House is simply bad timing for a state with 10% unemployment. The school system continues to draw huge sums with little improvement while city employees are underpaid and infrastructure is ignored.
I must credit Mayor Dean for the political machine he has assembled. May help him on a national level after his 2nd term expires.

pa

By: Liberal Bias on 6/23/11 at 5:01

With the economic downturn and reduced sales tax collections due to the historic floods, dipping into a portion of the "rainy day" fund was clearly justified to help the schools. I wish that the council would conduct a more comprehensive line item audit of that budget, however. Paying teachers a living wage for their work with students in the classroom should always be the top priority. Why are there so many people in "administration" over on Bransford Avenue earning six-figure incomes? Whenever staffing decisions have to be made as a result of shortfalls, the first people to be handed a pink slip are always the ones actually engaged in teaching. My kids attend a public school with a terrific PTO, and the parents are now paying for basic school supplies, equipment, landscaping, even teacher salaries to just to provide the bare minimums for the students. I have known many teachers, who despite years of specialized training, and earning less than an average fast-food worker, still pay for classroom materials out of their own pockets. How many $100,000 "Program Coordinators" are really necessary? I was shocked to learn the number of people working at the Davidson County Board of Education who earned more than $75,000 per year (which is almost the cost of two teachers)! According to the news article, it was nearly 100 people. Why don't they have to justify what they do to help students learn more effectively? I'm sure that all of these highly paid career civil-servants have things running like a well-oiled machine - just like stopping in to get your drivers' license renewed in under an hour.

At one time I worked for a education technology company which had a contract with Metro Government. Our schools had invested THOUSANDS in new Dell laptops, but ALL upgrades had to be performed by a handful of IT people stationed at Bransford and none of these PORTABLE devices could work unless they were hardwired to a port in the school - why not purchase cheaper desktops?

In some cases, the computer person working in the school was not privy to passwords to allow simple software upgrades- it required someone from the central office to drive over to the school and personally log in the computer. It was nuts - like "Catch 22" nuts. These aren't isolated incidents. Stupidity and waste is occurring everyday! We all need to hold our government more accountable and make informed choices.