Metro to Lean on Reserves to Balance Budget, Increase Schools Funding

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is choosing to dip into the city’s reserve fund to balance next year’s budget. In his annual State of Metro address, Dean said he’s the only first-term mayor in the last two decades to avoid a property tax hike.

“The alternative of asking our citizens to pay more in property taxes while they struggle to make their own ends meet would not have been the right thing to do. This year, our approach to the budget will be the same. We will not raise property taxes.”

Asked if the city could go another four years without a tax increase, Dean – who is running for reelection – said he wouldn’t speculate.

Dean frames the use of reserves as necessary to replace stimulus money for Metro Schools.

Schools Director Jesse Register says the district will lose $30 million in federal funding.

“We’re tightening our belts like everybody else. But I’ll tell you, the support that we’re getting from local government here, with increases here and with the increase we’ll get from the state, will really make this not a crisis year for us.”

The additional state funding is a result of higher enrollment numbers.

Also receiving an increase under Mayor Dean’s proposal is the Metro Police Department, which has a new precinct and crime lab coming online. Other departments, Dean says, will generally be cut by one or two percent.

The Metro Council will begin work on the mayor’s budget proposal later this week. Council members are supposed to pass a spending plan by July 1st.

Obesity Becomes Campaign Issue

Dean spent a portion of his annual State of Metro address on what he calls a crisis for the city – obesity. Health is becoming a campaign issue for the mayor’s opponent.

Dean says he’s using his bully pulpit to bring attention to the city’s obesity problem. He’s challenged people to walk 100 miles by July 9th. He says the Public Health Department is spending $7.5 million in federal money on prevention programs. And Dean wants to establish more community gardens throughout the city.

Dean says the rate of obesity in Nashville is 30 percent.

“It’s not about how people look in their clothes. It’s not about being able to brag about rankings. It’s about lives.”

Councilman Michael Craddock is running for mayor and calls Dean’s health initiatives a government intrusion.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s the government’s job or responsibility or duty to tell people how to eat and how to live.”

Dean is running for a second term. Election Day is August 4th.

Web Extra

Below is the full audio of the mayor’s State of Metro address, in which he also reviews last May’s flooding, which turned out to be the 4th largest non-hurricane disaster in U.S. history.

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