Police, fire departments ask mayor for sizable budget expansions

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 4:00pm

 

With whispers of a potential property tax increase dominating courthouse chatter, Metro police and fire department chiefs have asked Mayor Karl Dean’s administration for sizeable increases to their respective budgets.

Sitting across from Dean at the mayor’s annual budget hearings on Monday, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson said his department needs $8.2 million additional dollars, largely to withstand an expired federal grant that had ushered in 50 new cops. An hour later, Metro Fire Chief Steve Halford outlined fire department needs that total an extra $2.34 million more than its current budget.

Requests for funding hikes come as Dean’s administration hammers out an operating budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. After years of declining revenue, Dean has decreased the size of Metro government by 670 workers over the four-plus year since he took office in 2007. But unlike previous years, Metro’s first property tax increase in seven years appears to be on the table, a possibility hinted at by polling on the matter.

A decision on a property tax increase would come after receiving final revenue figures, Dean told reporters Monday.

“Making a decision as to whether you ask for a property tax increase or whether you don’t, and how you present the budget, is probably the most important thing we do,” Dean said.

“But put this into context,” Dean added. “I’ve been mayor for four and a half years. I think I’m the first mayor in ages who’s gone a full term without a property tax increase. We did that because we operated a lean government.”

Though Metro government has gradually shrunk under Dean, there’s a different pattern developing this budget cycle: Department heads are asking for more funding. As part of the trend, Director of Schools Jesse Register has requested a $48.3 million budget increase for the school district, a proposed budget the school board will vote on in April.

In January, Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling asked department directors to analyze the impacts of 2 percent reductions to their budgets. For Metro police, the reduction would results in 57 fewer officers.

But most of the conversations at Monday’s budget hearings centered on requested funding spikes.

Anderson, hired as the full-time police chief at the end of 2010, said half of his $8.2 million request is to retain 50 police offers hired three years ago through a federal COPS grant that is set to end. Anderson is also hoping to land $1.3 million to hire 20 crime lab scientists for the department’s new DNA crime lab, scheduled to open in 2013. Another $960,000 would be used to cover training costs for three classes of recruits.

Halford said he needs at least 10 new employees to cover overtime requirements. Combined with other needs, he’s asked for a $2.34 million increase.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said his office is operating well under its budget as a result of an unusual occurrence: More than 1,100 beds in jails across the county are currently empty.

In fact, one 300-bed jail in the Antioch area is completely unused. Hall said the sheriff’s office is in “aggressive conversations” with a private company that would lease the jail from the city to house juvenile female offenders.

Hall credited Metro’s controversial implementation of the federal 287(g) program as the key reason to spur the jail vacancies. The federal program, first implemented in Nashville in April 2007, authorizes some local government partners to screen an arrestee’s immigration status.

 

10 Comments on this post:

By: gthomas2099 on 3/26/12 at 2:56

Same old s***. We need more $$$$$ and it is never ending. Lost Fed funds (grants). We need never ro accept them. If you take them, you get use to money and when it finally disappears you lose 50 officers. So, lose the 50 and go on. Beside, I think if the criminal justice system did its job, we would not recycling the bad guys and gals. Take a look at the Metro Media report- they serve less than 30% of sentence. Keep them for total sentence and would save money.

By: Ask01 on 3/26/12 at 6:20

A better option, in my opinion, would be to convert any support positions filled by physically capable officers to less expensive workers and keep the actual police working real crimes.

I thought, with all the fanfare about busting those patronizing prostitutes and all the speed traps noted around the city, the criminal element had been soundly defeated.

Perhaps money would be better spent fighting real crime.

Alternatively, instead of using cars, walking patrols through known high crime areas would make officers more visible and accessible to the public they serve. They would also have better situational awareness.

Or across the board pay cuts to cover shortfalls.

By: Kosh III on 3/27/12 at 6:27

"Perhaps money would be better spent fighting real crime."

Absolutely.

We used to have cops on horseback, on bicycles and foot; where did they go? Maybe with foot and bike patrols, we wouldn't have so many fat cops.

By: slacker on 3/27/12 at 6:45

The Mayor should just come and and say he wants a property tax increase. Stop with the condescending drama, they already know what they're gonna ask for. ''My kingdom need more bicycle trails, and prostitution stings.''

By: Ask01 on 3/28/12 at 3:38

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we pass a proposal a few years ago requiring any property tax increase to be approved by the people?

Mayor Dean might consider waiting a few years and he can use all the money he promised was going to flood the city coffers from his new convention center.

I'm certain everyone recalls his assertions this would be a very profitable investment for the city. So now he can show how wrong all his opponents were by using the city's profits from the MCC to fund police budgets.

Alternatively, he can decline his salary and that of senior department heads to fund the requests.

By: govskeptic on 3/28/12 at 5:50

The City always makes the taxpayers feel great about getting a grant where
the Federal Government picks up the tab for new employees for 1 year.
Then a lifetime of salary and benefits flips over to the local taxpayers,
what a con we are constantly getting stuck with and no outcry or rejections!

By: slacker on 3/28/12 at 6:45

They refinanced the debt last year, to avoid starting this: ''greasing of the skids'' in an election year. Everybody knows what they're gonna do, but they persist in trotting out the usual suspects to justify it, Police, fire, and ''The children.''
Next up, a baseball stadium for the Sounds. Remember when the original owner of the Sounds, found private investors, mortgaged his personal property, to fund the investment? I think he also paid property taxes on Greer stadium, in full.

By: Kosh III on 3/28/12 at 8:02

"Remember when the original owner of the Sounds, found private investors, mortgaged his personal property, to fund the investment? I think he also paid property taxes on Greer stadium, in full."

Nah, that's capitalism; American businesses abandoned free enterprise when they realized it was easier and better for their bottom line to bribe someone to get a welfare check from the government.

By: Kosh III on 3/28/12 at 8:03

Don't forget that property taxes have been raised once already by Dean: they called it a re-assessment. It was just AFTER the Bush Recession caused property values to plummet--yet Metro assessed everything HIGHER.
What a con job!

By: thinking12 on 3/30/12 at 7:35

I sincerely hope there is a vote(by the people of Davidson County not any city council) on whether or not to raise property taxes!!!!
Cut the drama Mr Mayor-and use the resources you already have !
Better yet-use the income from your convention center to cover any shortfalls (great word for "I want to do what I want")
Put your salary on the line along with Mr Registers etc.

"Davidson County has one of the highest median property tax rates in the United States, and is ranked 690th of the 3145 counties in order of average property taxes."

according to http://www.tax-rates.org

We do not want to move up in this rank!!!!!!!!!!!