Dean budget kind to schools, police

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 2:45am

Fully funding schools and public safety, peeling back the first layer of the inter-governmental billing system known as Internal Service Fees and rebuilding a reserve fund that’s gotten dangerously low were the key points of the $1.58 billion budget Mayor Karl Dean presented to Metro Council on Tuesday.

It was Dean’s first-ever budget presentation and it came without any new taxes. It also coincided with his greatest points of emphasis during his campaign a year ago — funding the schools and public safety.

Metro schools will receive a $29 million bump in funding to a grand total of $627 million.

The $142 million Metro Police budget is a less than 1 percent cut from a year ago. However, Dean said the budget reflects all 1,312 Metro officer positions that will be fully staffed.

The mayor’s proposed budget also includes the addition of three new ambulances and a shift in focus for the fire department to Emergency Medical Services.

“This budget reflects my priorities,” Dean said. “Clearly we made a strong statement about our support for public education.”

Job cuts

The new budget will come at a cost as an estimated 200 Metro employees will be laid off with individual departments receiving cuts averaging about 5 percent.

Additionally 127 vacant positions will not be filled, although Director of Finance Richard Riebeling said Metro is not in a hiring freeze officially.

“I take it very seriously when anybody loses a job and the human side of this is very important,” Dean said. “We tried to keep that to a minimum. We also looked at this… as an opportunity to re-examine the way we do things. In the course of doing that, some positions got eliminated.”

Fees reduced

Riebeling got a round of applause from many Metro Council members when he spelled out a 40 percent reduction in Internal Service Fees, totaling a loss of 38 staff members. The elimination of some Internal Service Fees will save Metro about $3 million, Riebeling said. Internal Service Fees are the practice of Metro departments getting billed by Finance, Human Resources, General Services and Information Technology for the services they provide.

Riebeling said the cuts in Internal Service Fees demonstrate a movement toward “transparency” in how Metro spends its money.

“I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what’s right for the citizens of this city,” At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard said to Riebeling regarding eliminating Internal Service Fees.

No savings?

Unlike the previous Mayor Bill Purcell’s administration, Dean’s budget does not include anticipated savings. That’s not to say Dean doesn’t expect his budget will lead to savings, but the hope is that doing so will allow Metro to add to its $15 million reserve fund in the end.

Riebeling said the $15 million reserve fund is extremely low and raising it to about $35 million over the next several budget cycles is a top priority.

Other savings came from limiting hours of operation for certain parks and library branches in addition to a total shift in the way Metro appropriates grant money for non-profit organizations. Dean proposed about a $1 million cut in grant money to non-profits and will be forming an advisory group to determine which non-profits deserve to receive Metro’s funds.

Hardest hits

The item which received the strongest questioning from Council members was a $2.5 million reduction in the subsidy for Metro General Hospital at Meharry.

There were some increases. Besides adding the new ambulances, Dean found $500,000 for a new truancy program, which will come under the umbrella of the Juvenile Court and Judge Betty Adams Green.

The Mayor’s Office was one of the hardest hit in budget cuts with an 11 percent cut. Embattled Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver’s office received a 10 percent cut.

The budget must now be approved by Metro Council, which will begin its hearings on April 3. The budget proposal can be viewed online at www.nashville.gov.

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By: BADCOPS on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thanks Mayor Dean for not cutting the budget on the police. Our safety is so important for the citizens of Nashville. We need more to be done but at least they where not cut.I believe there are government grants for the police department to use to be trained in Elder/Disabled abuse of the these people.The police need to be trained in this field as it does not only apply to nursing homes. This crime is one of the most under reported crimes that is ignored, either that or it is reported and nothing done.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The item which received the strongest questioning from Council members was a $2.5 million reduction in the subsidy for Metro General Hospital at Meharry.********************************Is that where we are going to get the additional money for the Preds?They need to vote against giving them more money and forgettabout a new Convention Center.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I supported Dean in the campaign and everything he's shown so far affirms I was correct in giving him my support.Namely, fully funding the schools and police is the right move. And cutting Lineweaver's budget by 10% is a good start. It would have been even better if he could have eliminated Lineweaver's job altogether.And to his credit, I'll mention something that is generally not known. The mayor's office is now staffed far below what it was during Purcell's administration. The staff there is now so lean if you were to be there walking the halls, you might be forgiven for thinking it was a holiday. He runs that office with a bare minimum staff.

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Don't forget how kind he was to the owners of the ice hockey team. Until someone corrects me I will contend that less than 7,000 Davidson County taxpayers could care less if ice hockey is in town.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If he has aspirations to be Governor he has to do better then Brede$en did with his corporate welfare.

By: dogmrb on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Thank you Mayor Karl Dean for doing what you said you would. Now, it will be interesting to see what our Council members do. It's also time for Vic Lineweaver to go away. Does anyone know what percent of his budget is his salary and expense account?

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf and frank brown, the predators and the convention center are great for Nashville. They increase our tax base and revenue, and keep downtown from being a vacant district full of dangerous surface lots where the tax payers would have to spend more money on police to keep safe.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Nashbeck, it's useless to use reason with Frank and id. Frank's obsessed with the Preds and Id is obsessed with his money, which apparently is not buried in a shoebox in his back yard.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

As budgets go, this one isn't bad, but it demonstrates that we need more revenue sources (higher property taxes, taxing church property, out-of-county payroll tax, and an income tax on $100,000+). In addition, the library needs much higher funding. It is dreadfully understaffed & closed too many hours. I've never lived in another city that closed its libraries on Fridays.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

MJB, why does it not surprise me that you would agitate for higher taxes, including the damnable income tax. You take the leftist line on everything else.An income tax is a dead horse issue. Get over it. People aren't so naive as to not realize that an income tax that starts at incomes of only $100,000 will, within a few years, be readjusted to include incomes down to $50,000 and in a few years...Once an income tax is implemented, we're only one budget "crisis" away from lowering that ceiling. The people of this state are smart enough to see that camel nose sticking in the tent.Forget it.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

MJB, good point. If we can't keep our libraies open how/why should we be giving the preds another 3.8 million?

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf that might be the worst point i've heard in a while. The Predators are just to be blamed for everything right? Hell, it was the Predators fault we are at war with Iraq right? myabe if we weren't giving them 3.8 million, Osama would have been found already!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Id, stop whining here, go to a "Libraie" and learn to spell. Maybe people would take you seriously.Nevermind.

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Why is the income tax at $100,000? Is that "rich

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I agree with id the convention center is a huge waste of money and includes ridiculous codicils like paying 'the competition' (ie Gaylord) 80 mil so they won't whine. The convention center we already have is adequate and fulfills our needs- did any of you know the NAMM show many MCC boosters use as an example of why we need it is already coming BACK here?However I think the Preds are good for the city. I may change my mind later, but this is something that puts Nashville on the map, makes it a destination, and serves locals. Certainly more so than a 700 million dollar barn.Nashbeck, you mention crime. WHEN (not if) conventions become obsolete, which I predict will be within ten years, the MCC will become a crime magnet as it sits empty amidst the trendy condos.Dean has shown good sense so far other than his advocacy of the MCC.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

GlobCit, since the income tax would require a constitutional amendment, it would be exceedingly difficult simply to lower the bar.As for the bar of $100,000, BigPap, it is admittedly arbitrary. It's reasonable to state that a single person would find it difficult to live on less than $12,000 per annum. Thus, $100,000 represents about eight times the poverty level. I'm perfectly happy to encode some formula such that only those incomes that are, say, TEN times the poverty level are taxed.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

No, you're very wrong about that. It would take an amendment to pass an income tax, but once it's in place, the legislature could adjust it willy nilly. It would not take another constitutional amendment to make subsequent adjustments in rates or income levels affected.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Not if the amendment about an income tax kept any adjustment at the difficulty level of passing a constitutional amendment, GlobCit. I note that you are simply against an income tax. What is your suggestion to raise Tennessee from the bottom rank of the fifty states?