Acting Mayor David Briley appeared sullen and disengaged on NewsChannel5’s ‘Inside Politics’ with Political Analyst Pat Nolan Sunday in his interview to recap the State of the Metro address and attendant budget issues.
To his credit, Inside Politics host Nolan started off the half-hour interview on what should have been a heartwarming moment.
“On a personal note,” he began, “the address you gave Friday morning – the Star of the Metro address – was one that your grandfather, Mayor Beverly Briley, gave for twelve years, including the very first State of the Metro fifty-five years ago on April 1st 1963 – which is Metro’s original birthday. As you put this speech together and as you gave it, did that come back to you because the first thing your started out in your speech was a quote from your grandfather.”
Briley replied flatly, “It did. We wanted to look back at what people were saying fifty years ago, and that was a good place to look.”
Nolan – seeming to sense Briley’s lost opportunity jumped in, “It was about bringing people together and addressing things that were problems today, but address them in a way helps for tomorrow.”
“Yep,” Briley said, nodding.
He continued, “It was interesting that there is so much similarity in the conversation that the city was having fifty years ago and the conversation it’s having today; so, it was important to me just to, to go back and, I guess, reinvigorate his speech a little bit and bring that back to life.”
Later on in the show, Nolan touched on the sensitive topic surrounding the Metro Schools’ significant financial woes. As The Tennessee Star reported in March:
The Metro Nashville Public Schools admitted the school system has a $7.5 million budgeting shortfall in a blockbuster announcement released on Friday.
“Teachers braced for impact after Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph made the stunning admission that the district was set to lose $7.5 million in state funding, due to a unpredicted drop in student enrollment numbers,” NewsChannel 5 reported.
A grim fiscal outlook for next fiscal years, means some principals may be forced to cut as many as 17 positions at schools where enrollment decreases are the highest.
For the first time in 15 years, Metro Nashville Public School’s enrollment numbers have dropped. District officials thought they would add more than 1,500 students in 2017 instead the district lost 500 students.
Because of the drop in enrollment, the district is expected to lose $7.5 million in state funding, which had already been built into the budget.
MNPS School Director Dr. Shawn Joseph offered no explanation for the administrative budgeting fiasco that failed to anticipate the enrollment decline in a letter sent to teachers on Friday.
Instead, he simply acknowledged that a budget shortfall existed for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
“Budgeting for the many needs in our district is always a challenge, but less funding this year due to declining enrollment is always a challenge, but less funding this year due to declining enrollment and competition with other city priorities will make planning our budgeting especially difficult,” Joseph wrote.
Nolan asked, “Mayor, you had some very nice things to say about Shawn Joseph, the Metro Schools Director – but in some of the budget hearings, you had some questions about sort of how he was managing some of that. Is your relationship with him – are you confident in his leadership?”
Briley answered, “I am confident in his leadership. It’s my responsibility to ask hard questions about the city’s largest expenditure – which is public schools.
“I think Dr. Joseph, frankly, enjoyed the opportunity to respond to those questions because they were questions the public had and they deserved a clear answer from him.”
Nolan followed up, asking, “The budget you submitted was also a hard choice for you about Metro employees. They were expecting the second year of a three year, across-the-board pay plan that’s not going to happen – that could hurt you politically. How did you balance all that out when you were thinking about what to do?”
“Well,” Briley answered, “it’s important to know that the vast majority of Metro employees will still see an increase in their pay this year, because they’ll get an increment, as they are called, for years of service. Or, if they’re ‘open range’ as we call it, there’s some money in the budget for them to get an increase as well.
“What’s not happening is the cost-of-living adjustment. That was in the budget last year and that’s something the city made a commitment to. Certainly was not something I desired to eliminate, but in order for us to be financially prudent and not raise taxes – which I was committed to doing – we needed to take that out of the budget this year.”
Watch segment three in full: