NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville City Council members voted to pass a $2.6 billion budget Tuesday night.
What was ultimately passed was a substitute budget by Council member Kyonzté Toombs. It includes much of Mayor Cooper's initial budget proposal as well as multiple additions.
It includes a nearly $81 million increase in funding for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which would go toward teacher pay raises. The budget will also add more than 100 police officers to the Metro Nashville Police Department, and millions for transportation, affordable housing and neighborhood funding.
The substitute budget for FY21 is $2,466,262,200. The mayor’s proposed budget represents an overall increase of $180,318,100 (7.3%).
The largest investment in the Mayor’s proposed budget is for Metro Nashville Public Schools. This includes an $80.45 million increase in the amount of local funding for schools. While the Board of Education has the final say in how the appropriation for schools is spent, the Mayor’s proposed budget does fully fund the budget approved by the Board.
The budget includes funding for a number of improvement requests submitted by various departments. This includes a $24.5 million increase for WeGo, $9 million for Fire and EMS operations, and $10.5 million for the Police Department, which includes the operational funding for the new southeast precinct.
The Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing will receive $12.5 million as part of the continuing commitment for affordable housing.
The substitute budget would shift $13,600,000 from various sources within the GSD General Fund and allocate the funds for other uses.
“After a year of crisis, Nashville is finally entering an era of investment,” Mayor John Cooper stated in a press release following the budget's passing. “And with this budget, we’re laying the foundation to build a city that truly works for everyone with historic investments in our schools, transportation, community safety, and affordable housing. We’re making these essential investments with a tax rate that is more than a dollar less than our average rate over the past quarter-century – the third lowest in Metro history. I’m grateful to the Metro Council for working with us to fix and protect our finances, which has made this year’s investment budget possible. Today, there’s no city in America better positioned for the years ahead than Nashville.”
The uses of the $13,600,000 in the substitute budget are as follows:
- $1,149,800 to the Fire Department for 15 new fire and 10 new EMS positions starting January 1, 2022
- $170,200 to the Health Department for three new animal control positions
- $818,000 for the Mental Health Cooperative’s Crisis Treatment Center
- $5,243,800 to fund the additional step pay increase and an additional 1% open range funding for employees as recommended by the Civil Service Commission
- $662,500 to the Parks Department to fund 21 new positions starting January 1, 2022, and to restore funding for recreation center programming
- $3,145,900 to Metro Nashville Public Schools. Although the Board of Education has the exclusive authority for determining how these additional funds are spent, the funding is intended for the following purposes:
- $1,200,000 to pay for seven professional development days for paraprofessionals
- $1,400,000 for elementary school advocacy centers
- $545,900 to reduce the student to psychologist ratio
- $59,100 to Metro Public Works for a full-time position at the East Convenience Center
- $644,200 to the Public Library to provide ½ year of funding for the following:
- $381,500 to open the libraries on Fridays
- $262,700 for curbside service
- $150,000 to Metro Social Services for two new employees in the Homeless Impact Division
- $100,000 to the Metro Arts Commission for restorative programs in cooperation with Juvenile Court
- $50,000 to Metro Human Resources for training materials
- $1,000,000 for a Cure Violence program in North Nashville
- $277,800 to the Metro Council Office for staffing, translation services, and professional development opportunities for Councilmembers
- $128,700 to the County Clerk’s Office for staffing
Some local organizations said this it's a budget they can stand behind.
"Our Affordable Housing Task Force is happy to see $15 million included in the budget for it to be restored to the Barnes fund, but even the mayor's advisory committee recognized that there needs to be more. So, we are hopeful, we're encouraged and we're hopeful that this budget will be adopted," said Ron Heady of NOAH.
However, after the budget vote, members of the public protested inside the chambers. A group of young people who live at the Mosaic Apartments held a sign spelling at mosaic is 615. The signs were taken by security which made the public inside the chambers upset.
These are the apartment buildings where residents claim they don't have working air conditioning and the living conditions are terrible.
Yelling between the public toward council members quickly started, and Vice Mayor Jim Shulman tried to ease the crowd and finally, he called for a break.
Shulman told the crowd there are no signs allowed in the chamber but he says he was not the one to ask for them to be removed.
Worker’s Dignity and members of the People’s Budget Coalition were in attendance.