The Nashville Farmers’ Market, Municipal Auditorium and State Fair Grounds are being phased out of the city’s annual budget. They were completely left out of the mayor’s $1.8 billion spending plan.
In the scheme of things, the subsidies are small. But they got the most attention during a special Metro Council meeting Tuesday.
“Is part of the discussion, the discussion perhaps of eliminating these facilities?” Councilman Charlie Tygard asked.
Metro finance director Rich Riebling says the city hasn’t “come to that bridge yet.” He’s open to giving the farmers’ market, municipal auditorium and state fair some money to get by. But only after they come up with plans to become self-sustaining over the next few years.
Mayor Karl Deal says it shows he’s serious.
“It moves the ball forward where people have to begin talking about solutions instead of digging the hole deeper,” he said.
The mayor is also recommending a $4 million cut to Metro General Hospital. And he’s offering schools less than they were hoping for, but still a $26 million increase.
The budget proposal – which will now be tweaked and approved by the council – also includes money to keep the grass mowed at Metro Parks and increase bus service on Murfreesboro Rd. Roughly $470,000 is suggested to reopen the main library on Monday. Police are in line for $2.8 million to fund the new Madison Precinct, as well as a new DNA crime lab and “aviation.”
The mayor has added three animal control officers in an effort to keep stray pets in check. Public Works is set for a $1.5 million increase, some of which will go to fund a new “bicycle coordinator.” And Metro Information Technology Service is getting more money to expand public wi-fi.
All Metro employees are recommended to get a 1.5 percent pay increase for a cost of $3.5 million. The pay hike doesn’t take effect until January 2014.
The city will have to dip significantly into its reserves to fund the budget, in part because of debt payments that were essentially put off in tighter years through refinancing.
Sales tax collections are expected to continue their upward trend, though they account for just 18 percent of the city’s budget. Half of the money comes from property taxes.
The property tax rate will actually drop by $0.14 – pending approval by a state panel. That’s because the reappraisal increased values and the city can’t make money on a reappraisal.
Mayor Dean passed his first property tax increase last year. He says it really wasn’t a possibility this year.
“It may have passed through my head,” he said. “But it is not something we really considered at all.”