Nashville Growth Fuels Big Funding Requests, But Has The Boom Peaked?

Mar 16, 2017

A thread weaves through this week’s Metro government budget hearings: that the growth of Nashville has department leaders scrambling to keep up. And they’re asking for more funding to do that.

The tone since Mayor Megan Barry took charge is a substantial change from the years when hearings always included some reference to cost cutting.

Yet Barry has made clear that not all requests will be approved.

“The requests for funds we have will far exceed the revenue we will be asked to allocate,” Barry has been saying at the start of each hearing (which are broadcast live and archived on YouTube).

Here’s a round-up of a few growth-inspired requests.

  • Leaders with the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority said they are following the will of residents by asking for a budget increase of roughly $95 million dollars — more than doubling the current amount — largely to go toward capital projects such as new buses and bus stations within neighborhoods.
  • Emergency Communications Director Michele Donegan said Thursday that her goal is to get 911 calls answered within 10 seconds — a national standard — by hiring three additional dispatchers. In one year, emergency calls jumped 21 percent, she said, reflecting the increase in residents and tourists.
  • The Nashville Fire Department seeks six more inspectors under the umbrella of the fire marshal, as well as 33 additional firefighters — partly to prepare for a new fire company intended for the Priest Lake area.
  • Metro Nashville Police are asking for funding to hire an additional 128 officers, primarily to improve response time. It’s also looking to open a 9th Precinct in the next few years. The department will need another 44 officers over the next two years for that.

Meanwhile, one of the departments that has most closely witnessed Nashville’s boom — the Department of Codes and Building Safety — had a mixed message for the mayor.

On one hand, Codes is seeking more than a dozen additional staffers. That follows several years of record-breaking activity surrounding building permits, as well as calls by council members to reduce patron wait times and increase the rigor of inspections on job sites.

Yet Codes Director Terry Cobb also shared an insight: construction permits have begun to level off.

“I think we’ve seen the peak. I said it, so record that,” Cobb said. “It was first said here.”

His analysis follows a year in which Codes handled $3.56 billion in permit activity. The department is on pace for roughly $3.4 billion this fiscal year, he said.