Mayor Karl Dean said he’s “optimistic” about the state of Metro government as he unveiled a budget this morning that includes no property tax increase and cuts that are less severe than previously feared.
Instead, Dean’s proposed $1.52 billion budget would seek to restructure, or increase, the city’s debt service that is accrued over time as the city pays off its bonds. The budget is a 1.2 percent decrease from the previous year as opposed to the 7.5 percent that had been forecasted.
“We can do this and still protect our city’s finances in the long run, because we will take advantage of the historically low interest rates that have come about as a result of the current economy,” Dean said of restructuring Metro’s debt, which will add about $70 million to the city's bottom line.
“In recent history, most Nashville mayors have raised property taxes during their first few years in office,” Dean said. “We are going to break that tradition.”
As he’s framed his mayoral agenda since campaigning for the job in 2007, Dean said his budget prioritizes education, public safety and economic development.
Dean said his budget would fully fund the request submitted by Director of Schools Jesse Register and make up the $25 million shortfall that still exists because Metro schools has depleted its rainy-day funds. He said the budget would also keep the police department fully staffed. In addition, Metro employees would enjoy an across-the-board 2 percent pay bonus this year, while restoring longevity pay for employees. Government salaries have been stagnant for four years.
Dean’s capital spending budget is $160 million, less than it has been in the past.
New projects funded in the budget would 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.
As well, Metro Public Works' budget will remain flat next year, meaning there will be no changes to basic services like recycling and brush pickup.