A better budget for Nashville

The FY20 operating budget proposed by the administration falls short. I along with other Council members will propose a better budget for Nashville. Council Member Anthony Davis has agreed to be a co-sponsor. We are inviting others to sign on too.

(For background, my posts from last year’s budget season are linked here. And here are this year’s budget posts from March 19, April 30, May 3, May 4, and May 16.)

The administration’s budget doesn’t work because it is still focused on cutting costs and selling assets when the city is expanding rapidly. After repealing employee pay raises last year, selling at least $16 million of one-time assets this year, slashing about $15 million in expenses over the  last 18 months, and planning to cut another $19 million of expenses in FY20, the budget is still a mess and has to rely on $41.5 million of one-time non-recurring revenue to make ends meet.

The conventional wisdom in the courthouse is that the administration will propose a property tax increase next year — after the election. The administration’s proposed budget squeezes employees on pay and citizens on services in the meantime. It deepens problems when it should be creating capacity. It worries about opposition when it should be inspiring change.

A better budget for Nashville would improve school employee pay, allow the city to pay its debts without selling off one-time assets, and allow a small cushion to get through to the next scheduled property value reassessment in two years. To do this, we will propose a 52.5 cent property tax rate adjustment. This would:

  • increase new MNPS funding from $28 million to $55 million
  • pay for anticipated new debt obligations
  • not rely on collecting a $30 million one-time payment from outsourcing parking enforcement
  • not rely on collecting a $11.5 million one-time payment from selling the district energy system
  • replenish the city’s savings account, or “Funds Balance”
  • allow for reasonable employee raises next year
  • allow for basic 1.9% inflation without having to continue department cuts into FY21

You can see the details here. Like our proposal last year, there’s nothing fancy here. There are no new initiatives here. The reality is a 52.5 cent property tax adjustment is required to maintain basic government functions without relying on cuts or selling off one-time assets. For every $100,000 of home value, 52.5 cents translates into $131.25 per year, or just under $11 per month.

The next steps are for the Council to continue it’s budget process. We have 2nd reading on June 4 and 3rd/final reading on June 18. We will place this alternative budget in the “Amendments Package” for 2nd reading, but most of the deciding and voting will be at 3rd reading.

Your emails and calls matter. The budget process is designed to favor a choice between 2 budgets — the Mayor’s budget and the Substitute from the Budget & Finance Committee Chair. Our other alternative — a “Second Substitute” — is not allowed to have any amendments under the Council’s own rules. If you support this better budget, please reach out to the Council and let us know what you think. You can find individual contact information here or email us as a group at CouncilMembers@nashville.gov.

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.