Live from Music Row Monday morning on the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy was joined in studio by the all-star panelist, Crom Carmichael, and Nashville Metro Councilman Steve Glover.
Towards the middle of the third hour, Glover discussed the current state of affairs with Nashville’s finance issues and how Kevin ‘Rambo’ Crumbo has come on the scene to help generate a report in aiding the fiscal issues facing the city. Glover was optimistic about the new finance director and cited, ‘He understands numbers inside and out. He understands bonds.’
Leahy: We are back in the studio with metro councilman Steve Glover and all-star panelist Crom Carmichael. Steve, you said that this is a big week for the budget. There’s a big report coming. Tell us what’s going on.
Glover: So the state comptroller, I think anybody that pays any attention whatsoever to local politics, the state comptroller came in and sent a letter around the sixth of August and said basically your budget is not balanced. We’re not going to approve it.
See, the state comptrollers office, they sound off on every municipality in our case we’re a metro. A form of government. They sign off on every one of the budgets. And they said, no. We’re not approving it. We don’t think it’s balanced. I already brought this into question if you remember on July third.
So, when they came in, they said you have until, I want to say, September 20th I think it was the date that we had to give an answer on what did we plan to do. Now with that, I want to say it was sort of like, are you going to fix it? Or do you want us to fix it? That was the answer that I think was supposed to be given.
Well, on September 12th we got a brand new mayor in Nashville. And John Cooper immediately starting working with the state comptrollers office he brought in a guy by the name of Kevin Crumbo who’s now our finance director.
Leahy: OK. Kevin Crumbo. What’s his background? Is he a numbers guy?
Glover: Oh yeah.
Leahy: Big-time numbers guy?
Glover: Yeah. Yeah. Let me tell you, I can’t give you his entire background but I will tell you that he has stepped in on a number of issues. Birmingham, Alabama as an example for one. He came in and organized the whole deal there.
Leahy: Ok so he has previous experience fixing…
Glover: In this arena. I don’t want to call him a how do I say this, I guess properly because I don’t think I’m going to adequately describe it. He understands numbers inside and out. He understands bonds.
Leahy: So he’s a good numbers guy?
Glover: Oh, he’s fabulous.
Leahy: So he’s got a report coming?
Glover: It’s coming this Wednesday.
Leahy: And what do you anticipate will be in that report?
Glover: The solution of how we get out of this.
Leahy: Really? It’s that big? You have that much confidence in the mayor’s appointee.
Glover: I really got to tell you guys…
Leahy: So have you met with Kevin?
Glover: Multiple times.
Carmichael: Did you say his name is Crumbo? Is that like Rambo?
Glover: Well yeah.
Leahy: Crumbo Rambo. We’ve got a headline, Crom!
Carmichael: I’ll say this. Having somebody who comes in with a fresh pair of eyes who also has the experience that’s really heartening. I will tell you, you like you’re very pleased with this particular appointment.
Glover: I wish there was a camera on right now because I’m smiling.
Leahy: He’s smiling.
Carmichael: Kudos to mayor Cooper…For picking this guy. But we’ll have more kudos after Wednesday. We need to see the report.
Glover: We will have more kudos. I’m not sure that other people will.
Leahy: When you say other people, you mean the lunatic left in Nashville.
Glover: See, you say that. I don’t. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Crom agrees.
Carmichael: Poor choice of words.
Glover: Well, but if you saw last week, and look so let’s talk about this if we may for a second.
Glover: So the first thing that he did, and actually was not the first thing but the first big public thing that was announced that he did was he cut the bar fund affordable housing.
Leahy: So mean.
Glover: No, he didn’t. The money wasn’t there. You can’t cut something you don’t have. Because if in fact, the money was there, it would almost be then at that point he would have cut it. That’s like…
Leahy: He acknowledged that it didn’t exist.
Glover: He acknowledged that we’re not going to meet that obligation.
Leahy: Got it.
Glover: We’re not going to stretch ourselves beyond the point of breaking.
Leahy: Got it.
Glover: So he took that back. He has done a couple of other things. 12 million from the downtown group with the Music City Center. There are other ideas that are swirling around. I have a feel for some of them. I’m not sure exactly what they’re going to be in totality. But here’s the thing I’ve been trying to explain for the last several days.
You can’t cut something you don’t have. That’s sort of like if you went to a fancy steak restaurant and when dinner is served they bring you out a plate with nothing on it and you have the utensils and you grab the fork and the knife and all you’re going to hear is eeek, eeek, eeek. There’s nothing to bite into or be nourished by.
Leahy: I’m hungry now. (Laughs)
Glover: Well, sorry about that. If the money’s not there we can’t spend it.
Carmichael: Well let me ask the large question. And just in a sense that, do we know how much the city was out of balance for the fiscal year right in front of us?
Glover: So when I first starting guestimating and I thought somewhere between 30 million to 50 to 52 million.
Carmichael: Per year?
Leahy: To the negative.
Glover: Yeah, to the negative on the current budget. I think we’re probably going to land in the 40-ish to 45-ish range based on the…
Carmichael: How big is the total budget?
Glover: 2.23 billion.
Carmichael: OK. Alright. So two percent. Two percent is out of whack.
Glover: Yeah. Give or take. Again, not finite numbers.
Carmichael: How much of an increase in the deficit do we have going forward for unfunded liabilities? Promises made for future spending that has not been funded?
Glover: So Crom, on that one, what I’m going to ask you to do is let me finish reading the book because I’m not quite ready for that homework. Here’s what’s going to get us.
Glover: If we don’t get a handle on this. Look, I’m not overusing the word saying I love Kevin Crumbo because I’m watching what he’s doing. He’s not a politico guy. He’s a numbers guy. He’s saying the politicians, you’ all take it after I give you the message and if you don’t want to do the right thing that ya’lls choice but here’s the way to fix it.
The area that is concerning I think to him and to me but this is not anything that just started a year or two years ago is the medical insurance piece.
Glover: We’re heavily underfunded there. Heavily underfunded there. So when you ask me how large is the deficit, that target is moving so rapidly.
Leahy: And that’s for city employees and retirees and fire department employees and police department retirees?
Glover: Primarily the retirees. That’s where it really, because I mean you’re active employees that is an obligation you take care of. But the future costs that’s the one that’s lurking.
Carmichael: The promises that were made for retirees were not properly funded when the promise was made. Is that something Crumbo will get a handle and present that to you all as the size?
Glover: I don’t think on Wednesday.
Carmicheal: Is that part of his…
Glover: I think so. Let me tell you, this guy impresses me so much because he is delving into every single penny of the city. And I like it.
Leahy: When and where is this report going to be delivered and how will it be delivered?
Glover: So it will be Wednesday afternoon. December the 11th at 4:30 pm CST.
Glover: In the council chambers.
Leahy: To the entire council?
Glover: It’s an open meeting to every council member. But it through the budget finance committee.
Leahy: We could send a reporter there.
Leahy: So he comes in. Do you get a copy of this report? Does he verbally describe it?
Glover: Well, I can only assume that we will get a copy and there’s no doubt in my mind he will verbally describe it. But I don’t know because we’ve never been to this point in our lifetime in this city. So, this is new ground.
Leahy: Do you have any hint as to any big things that he’s going to change?
Leahy: Ahh, so a little bit of mystery and uncertainty as to what the report will contain.
Glover: I mean, yeah. There are still millions that need to be answered for.
Listen to the full third hour:
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