by Steven Hale
Mayor Karl Dean and Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling raised the curtain on a $1.8 billion budget proposal in a presentation to Metro Council members last night.
The proposed budget for 2013-14 is $100 million larger than the current budget, mostly accounted for by a $26 million funding increase for schools and $57 million in additional debt service payments. The largest portion would still go to Metro Nashville Public Schools, with their $746 million allotment making up 41 percent of the overall budget. Public safety would receive the second largest portion of the funds, at 22 percent, with the Sheriff's office, police and fire all receiving funding increases.
Dean's budget would also require drawing nearly $45 million from the city's so-called rainy day fund, the largest withdrawal the administration has made from the fund for budgetary needs in recent years. But Riebeling and Dean said that in anticipation of increased debt service payments after refinancing in 2010, they put additional funds into reserves in past years to prepare for this day.
at The City Paper has more details. But after the jump, an excerpt regarding one item in particular that got a fair amount of attention from council members last night.
Council members also seized on the administration’s decision not to propose any operating subsidies for the Municipal Auditorium, the Nashville Farmers' Market, or the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, despite requests from the struggling facilities. Some on the council, like Councilwoman Emily Evans, have raised the concern that withholding subsidies from enterprise funds like the Farmers Market will actually contribute to increasing their deficits, by making it harder for them to generate revenue.
But Riebeling said the administration felt it was better to “keep the pressure” on these agencies, and that asking them to operate within their budget “forces them to be creative.” He conceded that the facilities would need a subsidy at some point in the year. At that point he said, they could request additional funds from the council which could evaluate what progress, if any, had been made toward making the facilities sustainable.
“If you give someone a budget, they’re going to spend that budget,” Dean told reporters, reiterating Riebeling’s prior comments. “So if you fund all that’s requested beyond the revenue that they’re able to produce, that money is gone. The council asked last year, very clearly, to be involved with those three particular departments on their budgets and to be kept informed. This way, this will move progress in terms of those areas looking for ways to improve the way they operate.”
Both Dean and Riebeling said closing any of the facilities is not on the table, yet.
The council's budget hearings will begin May 14.