Nashville Mayor Cooper announces capital spending plan to reform metro spending

Posted at 10:46 PM, Nov 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-13 23:47:00-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced capital spending reform legislation Wednesday which would require Metro to fully plan public projects before construction begins.

Cooper's administration has partnered with Metro Council Budget and Finance Chair Bob Mendes to write the legislation. The ordinance would require Metro Council and the Mayor’s Office to fully itemize and appropriate funds for public projects before construction begins. Mayor Cooper says the move comes "in the interest of improved clarity and government transparency."

The proposed ordinance mandates the development of a “Capital Project Cost Itemization Form,” which specifically lists at least 11 projected cost items − including land acquisition, design, and construction − for all proposed capital projects with an estimated value of over $5 million.

According to Cooper's administration, past initial bond resolutions that fund Metro’s Capital Spending Plans featured generically labeled projects with little to no itemization of specific costs or details regarding project phases. It's practice that the administration says "created uncertainty and often led to project announcements creating the false impression that a project was fully funded."

The Davidson County's Sheriff's headquarters project was named as an example.

“The under-appropriation for the Sheriff’s headquarters project, which was not the fault of the DCSO, demonstrates problems that can be avoided through commonsense Capital Spending Plan reform,” said Mayor Cooper. “I was disappointed to learn the actual financial position of the headquarters project, and I am now acting to bring about policies to prevent such problems in the future.”

Cooper's administration says the Sheriff’s headquarters project did not run over budget as reported but was instead under-appropriated for purposes of completing construction. Another example the administration referenced: First Tennessee Park – now First Horizon Park – which eventually required additional funding from the Greenways budget in order to complete construction.

In his first six weeks on the job, Mayor Cooper has continued the close examination of Metro’s financial policies and procedures that began during his tenure as a member of Metro Council. Fiscal stewardship was a primary theme of Cooper’s mayoral campaign, and his administration is keenly focused on identifying opportunities to improve Metro’s stewardship.

“I challenge and encourage the Budget and Finance Committee to propose additional ideas for reform that will improve Metro’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” added Mayor Cooper.