A substitute budget crafted by the Metro Council would add $702,200 to Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.8 billion proposal and provide a subsidy to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds for the first time in the property’s history.
The alternative operating budget, proposed by the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Chair Lonnell Matthews includes $200,000 for the fairgrounds, which would only be available once the Council takes action on the Fairgrounds Master Plan. Broadly speaking, the master plan includes two options: redeveloping the fairgrounds, as Dean proposed two years ago, or upgrading the facility and continuing its current uses.
In a 2011 referendum, 71 percent of Davidson County voters supported maintaining the current uses at the property.
In their initial budget hearing with the mayor, fairgrounds officials projected a deficit for next year of more than $700,000. At a presentation before the Council last week, they revised that projection, estimating a shortfall of around $400,000. If approved, the $200,000 subsidy would help the property retain three of its largest events: the Christmas Village, the Lawn and Garden Show, and a monthly gun show.
The substitute budget also includes $63,700 for an additional staff position at the Metro Historical Commission. The commission’s director Tim Walker told The City Paper last week that the department was at the “breaking point” and would not be able to take on more work — such as increasingly popular historic overlay districts — without funding for another staff member.
The Council is set to consider the substitute budget at its meeting Tuesday. Other items included in it, according to a summary sent to council members by council attorney Jon Cooper, include:
• $150,000 for continuation of the Workforce Development Program. This program would be administered by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development and appropriated to Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, which is the agency that operated the workforce development program during the construction of the Music City Center.
• $99,800 for the Juvenile Court for a new probation officer position and the replacement of lost grant funds.
• $63,700 for the Planning Commission to add a planner position as a result of the increased permit/design review workload the department is experiencing.
• $50,000 for the Arts Commission for after school arts initiatives.
• $50,000 for increased travel and professional development opportunities.
• $25,000 for a new community garden grant program to be developed and administered by the Agricultural Extension Service subject to approval by the Council.