I am sending this message to Metro Council members today…
On August 6, 2019, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury sent a letter to Mayor Briley and the Metro Council. The letter raised substantial questions about Metro’s finances. The letter acknowledged receiving Metro’s FY 2020 operating budget and that Comptroller was “in the process of discussing a number of fiscal concerns that need to be clarified or addressed.” The Comptroller’s concerns are not resolved at this time. More work is necessary.
This morning, newly-elected Mayor John Cooper and I went to meet with the Comptroller and his staff about the August 6 letter and next steps. I was invited because the Vice Mayor Jim Shulman appointed me last week to be the chair of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee.
The Comptroller made an extensive presentation about Metro’s finances including long term trends for revenue, expenses, and debt service. It was a lot of information and the Comptroller offered to also make a presentation to the full Council. Mayor Cooper and I agreed that this would be valuable for everyone. This is likely going to happen in November. That will give the new Mayor, new Council, and new Finance Director time to get in place and up-to-speed.
I don’t want to over-simplify the information, but in summary, the presentation told us a lot of what we already know. Over many years, Metro has increased spending faster than revenue has grown. To make ends meet, the city has spent down its savings and relied on non-recurring revenue from one-time asset sales. As both the Mayor and I have been saying for some time, this approach can’t last forever and must be fixed. We also discussed the need for the Council to approve a new cash management policy. I believe we are on pace to consider this in November 2019.
Nashville is a vibrant, successful city. The Comptroller shared the twin messages that the situation is fixable, and that it has to be fixed now. I look forward to working with the Mayor, the Metro Council, and the Comptroller to improve the city’s budget.
When we are able to schedule a presentation from the Comptroller for the Council, I will let you know.
Bob Mendes, Chair, Budget & Finance Committee