Working with less revenue than the year before for the first time in the history of Metro, Mayor Karl Dean’s administration unveiled an operating budget Friday featuring layoffs, department cuts and other cost-saving measures, but no property tax increases for Nashville residents.
Dean’s finance aide Richard Riebeling presented a budget to Metro Council that included layoffs in the neighborhood of 150 employees, to go along with the elimination of about 200 vacant positions.
Riebeling insisted the cuts would not mean elimination of any Metro services and said the budget reflected the administration’s top values of schools and public safety.
Riebeling said revenues from sales tax collections and development fees were down about $28 million this fiscal year, which complicated the budgeting process. Most Metro departments will receive cuts of about 10 percent to close the gap.
It will mean shortened operating hours for community centers and libraries, among other Metro facilities.
The administration is also calling for a Metro-wide salary freeze and skipping the longevity bonuses due certain veteran employees this year.
Additionally, Dean is calling for eliminating the Metro fleet by 10 percent and completely eliminating departments’ travel allowance. The combined savings of those measures is about $5 million and means keeping dozens of Metro jobs, Riebeling said.
Public safety departments like Metro Police and the Nashville Fire Department will take two percent budget reductions, which will come without laying off any officers or firefighters in the field, Riebeling said.
Also receiving a 10 percent cut was the Metro Hospital Authority, which includes Metro General Hospital at Meharry. Riebeling said General Hospital could absorb the cut without a reduction in services.
The one department for which Dean proposed an increase in budget was the Metro Transit Authority. Riebeling said the increase would be used to maintain routes, implement the Bus Rapid Transit system on Gallatin Road and introduce a circulator route around downtown.
Last year, proposed cuts to MTA received public pushback and $1 million was restored to the department’s budget by Metro Council.
The administration also announced that it would introduce a brand new capital spending plan for all Metro capital projects next week. Among the projects expected to be included are a new DNA lab for Metro Police, a new connector road joining Jefferson Street to West End Avenue in addition to riverfront redevelopment.
Council will begin its budget and finance committee meetings with Metro departments next week.