Nashville Mayor Karl Dean released his budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year during a ceremony on Thursday. The $1.524 billion budget — down $18 million from the current spending plan — cuts department budgets 1.4 percent across the board, and it draws a 10 percent chunk from general government. The budget also borrows from a short-term debt-restructuring plan that provides about $70 million to plug an immediate hole left by diminished revenues, ensuring schools and public safety departments do not see significant losses, Dean said.
No new taxes: Continuing with its own historical trends, the Dean administration has chosen not to raise any taxes for next year. With 9 percent unemployment, the mayor has been upfront with his belief that now is not the time to add to the individual’s or family’s financial burden.
Department cuts: Metro police, fire and public safety departments will see less than 1 percent slashed from their budgets. For police, this means the 261 officers added to the rolls under Dean will keep their jobs; in fact, as the mayor often boasts, this is the first time in years that Metro police has been fully staffed.
Schools funding up: The $633 million budget for Metro Nashville Public Schools will be fully funded. That represents a 2 percent increase over last year’s budget. MNPS is the only Metro department that will see an increase in funding.
Public works flat: Metro Public Works has arguably been hit the hardest with budget cuts over the last six years: Department staff has been reduced from 522 employees in 2004 to 363 employees today. With cuts to basic services like recycling on the table, the Dean administration has elected to keep the public works budget flat next year — no cuts, no increases. The department is expected to lose a few jobs to attrition.
Pay bump for government workers: After four years of stagnant wages, government workers in all departments are getting a 2 percent pay increase for the year (capping at $2,000). It will be delivered as a one-time bonus in August.
New capital projects on the way: Dean’s capital spending budget is $160 million, less than in the past. Projects include a new 28th Avenue Connector, a new center for the Metro Health Department, two new police precincts, a library in Bellevue and a new community center at Sevier Park.
Debt restructuring: With interest rates at a historic low, Metro government has decided to refinance some of its bond debt. By doing so, it defers some payments for 18-24 months, freeing up about $70 million to plug holes left by this year’s revenue shortfalls. While it will cost the city something over the long term, administration officials insist the cost will be negligible because it has locked in such a low rate. They add that this is the clear alternative to raising property taxes or cutting further into an already-slim budget.