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New letter details budget challenges awaiting Nashville's incoming mayor

John Cooper Nashville Mayor
Posted at 1:33 PM, Sep 20, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro will likely have to cut expenses, raise revenue or dip into its savings to balance this year's budget. That's the conclusion of a letter Metro's finance director sent to the state Friday.

Last month, Tennessee's comptroller raised concerns about Nashville's spending and its decision to sell Metro assets to balance this year's budget. The comptroller demanded that the city explain the "impact of the sale of assets, including property and parking rights on the fiscal year 2020 budget in addition to the actual status of these sales."

The comptroller has the authority to take control of Metro's finances, but the office stressed it is not close to doing that yet.

Friday, Finance Director Talia Lomax-O'dneal answered the state's questions.

She wrote the current budget includes $41.5 million "in non-recurring revenue from the anticipated sale of the Metropolitan District Energy System (DES) and from an anticipated up-front payment related to a proposed concession agreement for the operation and management of Metro's on-street metered parking program."

The current budget counts on $30 million from the parking meter deal. But Mayor-elect John Cooper campaigned against the deal, and said on Inside Politics after his election, that he will not pursue the privatization of Metro's metered parking.

The letter from the finance director states the sale of Metro's District Energy System (DES) would net $11.5 million for the current budget. However, that sale has not been finalized and an energy company has filed a protest about the process Metro used to award the contract. A hearing over the company's protest is scheduled in the "coming weeks."

The letter says the "incoming administration" will need to decide how to fund the budget "should one or both these projects not more forward."

You can read the entire letter here.

Mayor-elect Cooper said on Inside Politics the day after his election that Metro's finances are his primary focus. He did not give specifics on how he would make up for the $30 million lost from ending the parking plan.

Cooper will take office next Saturday on September 28.