It’s officially budget season in Metro government, as several Metro department heads are scheduled to go before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee next month to update members on the status of their budgets.
A letter sent Monday by At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, invites the chiefs of some of Metro’s largest departments to the council’s chambers at various times during a three-day stretch from Feb. 9 -11.
“I think most parts of the government are in pretty good shape,” Steine said. “But this is the time to raise red flags and to let us know if there’s potential trouble on the rise.”
Departments and commissions scheduled to appear are: the Metro Nashville Board of Education, Metro Police, Metro Fire, Metro Parks, Metro Nashville Hospital Authority, Metro Water, Metro Planning Department and Metro General Services.
“There’s no indication that there’s trouble, but because [these departments] are so large, the council wants to see them,” Steine said.
The ongoing economic downturn has left some council members concerned over the looming budget cycle, with Councilman Michael Craddock, for example, anticipating it may turn into a “train wreck of monumental proportions.”
Cause of earlier anxiety comes in response to, among other gloomy forecasts, an estimated $35 million shortfall for Metro schools for the 2010-2011 fiscal budget year. Because its reserve funds are sufficiently tapped, that would mean the district possibly slashing its $620.7 million budget if the mayor’s office and Metro Council can’t find a revenue source to make up the difference.
Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling recently told The City Paper, “When you go into the budget process, everything is on the table.” When asked, he didn’t rule out  a potential property tax increase.