NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro teachers filled Metro Council chambers to make their case for bigger raises and more money for schools.
Mayor David Briley’s proposed budget was the focus of a public hearing at Tuesday night's Metro Council meeting. This was the last chance for the public to weigh in on the proposal before council members decide whether to approve it in its current form, or make any adjustments. Metro teachers and Metro employees lined up and voiced their concerns about the proposed budget. The public hearing lasted a little over one hour.
"Make sure when you vote to pass a budget, you include the people who actually make Nashville great," said one woman.
"If you don't give us the raises we need, you don't care about Nashville's children or Nashville's public," said another woman.
Many teachers who spoke talked about how they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. They said higher salaries would help the district attract and retain the best teachers, and ensure students are getting the best education.
Mayor Briley’s $2.33 billion proposed budget is a $101.5 million overall increase over the current year. It does not contain a property tax increase. It features a $28.2 million increase for Metro Nashville Public Schools’ operating budget and a 3% raise for Metro employees. It also calls for all full-time Metro employees to make at least $15 an hour, but this does not apply to Metro school employees. Starting pay for Metro police officers would be increased by 6.4%.
Since the budget was first presented in May, Metro teachers and other district employees have been critical of the plan. The district is asking for $76.7 million increase in funding, and 10% raises for teachers and support staff. They argue this is necessary to provide the best resources for teachers and students.
MNPS teachers and employees have held several rallies and attended budget discussion to make their views known.
A group of Metro Council members are also challenging Mayor Briley’s proposed budget with an alternative option. Their plan calls for a 52.5 cent increase to Nashville property tax rate to help address a budget revenue shortfall, and provide more money to Metro Schools for employee raises. Mayor Briley has said repeatedly he is opposed to any property tax increase.
Supporters said the plan would generate about $162.75 million for the city budget and increase funding for MNPS from $28.2 million to $55 million.
At-Large Metro Council Member Bob Mendes said the alternative budget proposal is not expected to be introduced or discussed until the June 18 council meeting.
The Metro Council voted to approve Mayor Briley's proposed budget on the second of three votes, but it still has one hurdle to clear. At the Metro Council meeting on June 18, council members will debate if this is the proposal they want to go with, or if they would consider a property tax increase to generate more money for schools.
The Metro Council must vote on a final budget before July 1.