Dean proposes $1.8 billion Metro budget for 2013-14

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:43pm

Mayor Karl Dean proposed a $1.8 billion budget proposal to Metro Council members Tuesday night, providing a first look at a spending plan that increases funding to schools and public safety and makes a notable withdrawal from the city’s rainy day fund.

Dean’s proposed budget represents a 5.86 percent increase or about $100 million over the current budget. The presentation, given by Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, also showed projected revenue growth, mostly from increased sales and property taxes, of about $55.5 million.

“We have been conservatively optimistic, and so with this year’s budget there are no surprises,” Dean said in a prepared statement. “We are in a good position to implement the same philosophy that has driven our budget decisions from day one: focus on services, invest in our priorities and cut back where we can. This budget allows us to continue our city’s momentum, but in a way that is prudent and fiscally responsible."

As promised by the mayor weeks ago, the budget does not include a property tax increase. In fact, because state law does not allow cities to collect increased revenues from reappraisals, the increase in property values found by the recent reappraisal means the property tax rate will go down.

The proposal includes what Riebeling called a “strong increase” for Metro Nashville Public Schools. While not quite the $44 million increase the school board had requested, Dean’s budget includes an additional $26 million for schools, representing a 3.61 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The $746 million allotment for MNPS would make up 41 percent of the overall Metro Budget.

A $300 million capital spending plan in the proposed budget also includes $95 million for Metro Schools projects, most of which would go toward replacing Goodlettsville Middle School and Tusculum Elementary, renovating Waverly Belmont Junior High School, and building a new elementary school.

Public safety would be 21 percent of the budget. The Metro Nashville Police Department would receive an additional $2.8 million, which will fund staff at the new DNA Crime Lab and the new Madison Police Precinct. The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office would receive a $1 million increase over the current year, and the Nashville Fire Department would see an additional $370,000 in funds.

One item in the proposal that raised eyebrows was a withdrawal of nearly $45 million from the city’s reserves, otherwise known as the rainy day fund. That would represent a larger reliance on the fund than in previous years. While the fiscal year 2004 budget drew $105 million from reserves, according to Riebeling’s presentation, budget’s during Dean’s tenure have used it to a lesser extent: $15.7 million in 2010, and 24.5 million in 2012.

But in a briefing with reporters after the presentation, Riebeling and Dean tried to put the proposal in context. This year’s proposed budget includes $57 million in additional debt service payments, an increased expense they said they anticpated after refinancing part of the city’s debt in 2010. In past budgets, they said, they set aside additional reserve funds to cover some of the debt costs later.

“From a financial standpoint, spending any reserves is too much,” Riebeling said. “But you’ve got to balance the needs of the city with reserves and, as the mayor said eloquently, we’ve built for this day and now it’s time to use it.”

Dean noted several times that the rainy day fund would still be larger after the proposed budget than when he first took office. Riebeling said the proposal would leave the fund with about $110 million.

Council members also seized on the administration’s decision not to propose any operating subsidies for the Municipal Auditorium, the Nashville Farmers' Market, or the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, despite requests from the struggling facilities. Some on the council, like Councilwoman Emily Evans, have raised the concern that withholding subsidies from enterprise funds like the Farmers Market will actually contribute to increasing their deficits, by making it harder for them to generate revenue.

But Riebeling said the administration felt it was better to “keep the pressure” on these agencies, and that asking them to operate within their budget “forces them to be creative.” He conceded that the facilities would need a subsidy at some point in the year. At that point he said, they could request additional funds from the council which could evaluate what progress, if any, had been made toward making the facilities sustainable.

“If you give someone a budget, they’re going to spend that budget,” Dean told reporters, reiterating Riebeling’s prior comments. “So if you fund all that’s requested beyond the revenue that they’re able to produce, that money is gone. The council asked last year, very clearly, to be involved with those three particular departments on their budgets and to be kept informed. This way, this will move progress in terms of those areas looking for ways to improve the way they operate.”

Asked if closing any of the facilities was a possibility, Riebeling said “I don’t think we’ve come to that bridge at this point.” Dean concurred.

Other notable items include:

  • $469,700 funding increase for the Nashville Public Library, which will allow the main downtown library to be open on Mondays.
  • A $150,000 funding increase for the Health Department, for three additional animal control officers.
  • A $4 million funding increase for the Nashville Metro Transit Authority, which will fund operation of the new University Connector and the Murfreesboro Road BRT-lite service for the full year.

8 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 5/1/13 at 4:19

“If you give someone a budget, they’re going to spend that budget,” Dean told reporters,

Sounds as if he is speaking from experience.

By: Loner on 5/1/13 at 5:03

Mayor Dean's budget reflects his administrations priorities and its targeted victims....most budget items were fully funded, or received an increase in funding; but three items are on Dean's fecal roster and they are being slowly starved financially, to the breaking point....that's Dean's intent, of course....here's the significant line in the main article:

Council members also seized on the administration’s decision not to propose any operating subsidies for the Municipal Auditorium, the Nashville Farmers' Market, or the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, despite requests from the struggling facilities.

There it is...the Dean giveth and the Dean taketh away...so it is written.....amen.

Looks like somebody is not playing the kick-back and sweetheart contract game....and now, those 3 programs are moribund.....No play = No pay.....that's governance, Tennessee style.

By: Loner on 5/1/13 at 5:13

The Municipal Auditorium, the Nashville Farmers' Market, or the Tennessee State Fairgrounds have failed to ingratiate themselves to the Dean regime....now the citizenry will pay the price for the bad blood at the top.

Sometimes the egos on these sitting politicians gets out of control and they behave like miniature emperors....rewarding the yes men and the fawning sycophants, while oppressing those who refuse to kowtow....I think that Karl Dean has arrived at that point....he's gotta go....the emperor is buck-assed naked.

By: PKVol on 5/1/13 at 8:04

Schools and Public Safety make up a total of 62% of this budget ($1.1 Billion). This is more than the cost of the Music City Center IN ONE YEAR! Schools are getting 46% of the budget and still struggle to educate the majority of its students.

By: Rasputin72 on 5/1/13 at 10:42

The enormous effort to educate the underclass and the welfare recipients in Davidson County may be the most unrewarding challenge facing productive Nashvillians.

The teachers and educators may be the first to feel apathy and disregard for the effort.

By: Rasputin72 on 5/1/13 at 10:42

The enormous effort to educate the underclass and the welfare recipients in Davidson County may be the most unrewarding challenge facing productive Nashvillians.

The teachers and educators may be the first to feel apathy and disregard for the effort.

By: Loner on 5/1/13 at 6:41

No need to regurgitate your venom, Rasp....you are so phony ....probably a homeless guy...or living off an actually productive person.....another Nashville Nut-Job.....another rebel without a clue....pathetic.

By: Rasputin72 on 5/2/13 at 5:48

LONER..........has presented a venomous disagreement from the non-productive side of humanity.

The problem with democracies is they peter out when the non-productive out number the productive.