Metro Nashville departments have submitted requests for the upcoming fiscal year 2021 budget totaling 861 new full-time equivalent (FTE) positions and increases funding by staggering $144 million.
It is important to note that these increases do not include Metro Nashville Public Schools, but just the 47 departments that fall under Metro’s general government.
The “budget modification requests” is one of the first steps of the annual budget process for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
During his annual State of Metro Address Tuesday, which he conducted virtually, Mayor John Cooper announced that he plans to “sharply increase” the city’s property tax rate, as The Tennessee Star reported.
The budget increase from the fiscal year 2019 to 2020 was $101 million or 4.5 percent.
If the department requests were fulfilled for the next fiscal year, it would represent a $144 million increase or 6.2 percent over the current fiscal year budget.
As noted on Nashville’s Citizens’ Guide to the Metro Budget webpage, the reports show initial request and first drafts as submitted by the departments, and they will likely change as the mayor’s office and finance director review and consider what the departments have proposed.
Departments prepare their budget after receiving general instructions from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The Director of Finance provides the annual budget message to the departments, and they are urged to remain focused on the goals and priorities that set the course for the mayor’s budget plan.
“The goals are to produce a budget that is balanced using conservative assumptions, maintains low property taxes, and focuses on Nashville’s future,” according to Metro information on budget preparation.
The departments submit their requests to the Office of Management and Budget which consolidates information into a single budget format.
A 50-page document titled FY 2021 Budget Modification Requests by Department that includes the increases in personnel and funding has been summarized below and totaled for the number of FTE’s and dollars.
The largest increases are for the Police and Fire Departments at $24.6 and $22.4 million, respectively, due largely to positions not fully funded in previous years.
A significant portion of the increase to the Water and Sewer Department is related to a change in the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) payments approved this year by the Metro Council which accounts for $10 million of the $19.5 million total increase.
In the District Attorney’s office, a request for 250 additional staff is for the processing of body-worn camera video footage, at a cost of $18.7 million of the $19.4 million.
Meanwhile, the Metro Police Department has requested 8 FTE’s to manage the body-worn cameras at a cost of $3.1 million and the public defender has also requested 7 FTE’s for the body-worn cameras at a cost of $692,000.
The Metro Parks Department, with a list nearly as long as that of the police department, is looking for 117 new positions, a $6.2 million increase. According to Metro’s Open Data Portal, the 117 positions additional positions represent a 17 percent increase over the current 685 in the arks department.
To increase curbside recycling from once a month to every other week, the Public Works Department needs 14 new people and $1.1 million, in addition to a person “to further progress” on traffic signal design needs at $141,500, two people for more effectively manage the increased volume of new sidewalk projects and repairs at $223,500, eight people for every-other-week mowing and other right-of-way maintenance for $501,900 plus six more people for winter snow and summer mowing operations at $494,600.
Another $96,500 would fund additional operators and equipment to sweep protected bike lanes, which is currently handled by an outside contractor.
Metro Transit Authority (MTA) is looking for a $3.7 million or 7.6 percent increase over last year’s budget.
Under general services are several increases for fleet operations, including a $922,100 purge of obsolete parts inventory.
A special project manager at $164,900 will “research and implement best practices.”
In addition to 31 new positions, the Libraries are seeking $4 million to purchase books, databases and materials.
Cooper’s office is seeking to grow two more positions from the current 29 for an Emergency Preparedness Director and Workplace Safety Director for a total of $289,000.
To meet the timeline requirements for the budget process, Cooper will present a recommended budget to Metro Council at the April 28 meeting. The council will have until June 30 to pass a balanced budget or the mayor’s recommended budget and associated tax hike will take effect by default.
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