The Metro Parks Department and the Nashville Public Library system are both reducing staff, cutting hours and trimming programming at facilities across the county to cope with smaller budgets, officials announced during Metro budget hearings Thursday.
“I just hope we won’t lose [patrons],” said Donna Nicely, library director.
The downtown library will close on Mondays and closing time will be at 6 p.m. as the entire system loses nine employees under the new budget. The Main Library gets about 2,300 visitors each day.
The $1.3 million dollar reduction also is affecting branch libraries, too, which will be closed an extra three hours per week, it was reported on Thursday.
The Parks Department is losing 52 filled positions and downgrading 13 others, officials said.
Other cuts and reductions include the elimination of the Arts & History Program, reduction in hours at community centers, and a move to rotating schedules at Metro pools.
Concerns about the quality of landscaping and maintenance in parks have been voiced by some members of Metro Council.
“The Council members, especially the district Council members, are going to suffer more and hear more about what’s happened to the parks as time goes along than probably anything else,” explained At-large Councilman Tim Garrett. “The standards that the parks keep for cutting grass are actually less than what [they] are for residents that the codes department has.”
Parks Director Roy Wilson said the department will adjust, like lengthening the time between mowings.
“We tried to have minimal impact on maintenance… but we had to make some serious decisions,” Wilson said.
The mayor’s office proposed cutting the Parks Department by just over $4 million dollars. The department is slated to receive more than $15 million in new capital spending projects.
The Davidson County Election Commission had its hearing with the Metro Council yesterday as well, with the mayor’s office proposing $165,000 in cuts, that Election Administrator Ray Barrett said the department would handle.
Barrett did say, however, it hasn’t budgeted for a possible $600,000 outlay for a new paper-ballot voting system.
The state legislature passed a bill last session that would require local governments to switch to paper ballots for the 2010 elections. Barrett said they haven’t budgeted for it because there is another bill working its way through the state legislature that could push the deadline to 2012.
A special election for Council District 18 last month cost $12,000. The run-off cost was $8,000 for the seat vacated by Keith Durbin, who left to become Metro’s chief information officer.
The winner of that special election, Kristine LaLonde, asked whether the Election Commission had thought about doing instant run-off elections for districts to save money. Moving to an instant run-off system, where candidates are ranked, would require a charter amendment, according to Barrett.