Three Metro departments busting budgets

Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:23am

As Metro government conducts its midyear budget evaluation for the current fiscal year, parks, public works and the Hospital Authority are the only departments expected to overshoot.

Issues within all three departments have been well documented:

Keeping public golf courses open in the winter, along with sustaining other services, left Metro Parks with a budget overage, leading to the resignation of former Director Roy Wilson. The budget overrun had been projected to be $704,000.

Now, apparently thanks to cuts, Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said he expects the Parks overage to be “more than a few hundred thousand dollars.”

Public Works had been on target to stay within their budget, but Nashville’s recent snow invasion forced the department to pay employees overtime and spend excessive amounts of money on salt.

“They’re going to be over their budget,” Riebeling said. “We don’t know what the number will be yet, but I think it would be somewhere between the $100,000 to $200,000 range.”

Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority, which oversees Metro General Hospital, among other facilities, and provides health services for Nashville’s indigent population, has a long history of budget woes given its function as the city’s health care safety net. This year is no different, but the authority’s projected overage of $1.49 million is significantly less than it has been in the past.

Hospital Authority leaders credit its improved standing to a recently adopted program that gives incentives to Metro employees who use Metro General.

“It’s a lot lower number than where we were a few years ago,” Riebeling said of the Hospital Authority. “They’re making great progress.”

Trouble, of course, could arise for the Hospital Authority, as Gov. Phil Bredesen has proposed cuts to the TennCare program that could take approximately $10.5 million away from Metro General.

Riebeling said he expects to go before the council in May to ask for any supplemental appropriations to make up the budget overages for the current fiscal year in all three departments.

But looking ahead to the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Riebeling has asked all department leaders to evaluate the effect of a 7.5 percent cut. Those analyses are to be delivered to Riebeling next week.

“We’ll analyze those, and some will be draconian,” Riebeling said. “Obviously, some things we can’t do or won’t do. We’ll just have to balance it and see where we are.” 

8 Comments on this post:

By: Equanimity on 2/19/10 at 11:10


Why aren't these departments - and the office of the Metro Finance Director - run like businesses?

I do quarterly reports and forecasting. If I'm in trouble in Q1, I watch Q2 very carefully. When Q3 starts my forecast becomes critical and I make the changes needed to move into a sound Q4. The changes may be very painful.

Time after time it seems that Richie & Co. have no basic accounting tools in place to keep this budget on target, and he waits for Metro Council to clean up after him. Why, oh why, do we pay him?

Karl Dean should, and must, ride herd over these departments - Finance above all others - until they recognize that actions (or inaction) have consequences.

Why aren't these departments run like businesses???

By: on 2/19/10 at 11:41

I can't believe anyone is surprised with this. Hang on to your wallets. They'll have to raise taxes again to help pay for all this.

By: idgaf on 2/19/10 at 2:03

Sell off the golf cources.

By: Dragon on 2/19/10 at 3:42

The hopital authority and public works is understandable. Parks was just mismanaged without excuse.

Close the parks since they are a "nice to have" whereas the hospital and public works are required.

By: TITAN1 on 2/19/10 at 7:10

The sky is falling! LOL!

By: idgaf on 2/19/10 at 9:30

No titian just the same old tax and spend democraps.

By: govskeptic on 2/20/10 at 8:57

Does Titan1 even live in Davidson Co.? His remarks about spending and taxpayer
obligations here always seem very loose. No surprise about Parks or the
Hospital, they are always over budget. The recent weather excuses Public
Works to some degree, although usually they just cut out overage by slowing
down or dropping other duties assigned to them. Mo taxes, Mo taxes, this
years budget will attempt to catch up on past and future problems, budget
misses, incompetence and others ills of government. It's tough being
all things to all people.

By: concernedtaxpayer on 2/23/10 at 4:56

Why not blame Richard Riebeling? For a responsible Finance Director he should take care of these problems prior to even notifying Metro Council. Also, since the Hospital Authority receives over $40 million in subsidies annually, shouldn't the county sell the Hospitals to say HCA or some other company? Evidently we have irresponsible individuals over these departments that do not care and have no clue on how to operate like a business. That is the biggest disadvantage of government departments because they have unlimited amounts of money to use by being able to raise taxes.