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.
After three years of negotiation, Metro officials have agreed with cable giant Comcast on the terms of a new franchise agreement.
You may remember the hubbub a while back, when negotiations between the two sides bubbled over with public statements about growing cable bills and excessive demands.
Nearly two years later, the two sides have a deal.
With school vouchers and a statewide charter authorizer potentially coming down the pike at the statehouse, the Metro Council will weigh in on both at its next meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8.
A resolution — which appears in full after the jump — sponsored by Councilman Steve Glover expresses opposition to "all state legislation that would create a school voucher program in Tennessee or a state charter school authorizer without adequate state funds being appropriated to local school districts to cover the additional costs."
One of the largest incentives packages in Nashville's history passed the Metro Council last night with ease.
As expected, Mayor Karl Dean's deal for Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, which is projected to total around $66 million in tax breaks and cash grants, met little opposition. The health care giant has plans to move the headquarters of two of its divisions into two 20-story towers to be constructed in the long-vacant West End Summit property.
The mayor's offer, now approved by the council, includes a 100 percent property tax abatement of up to $3 million per year for 15 years — with a five-year extension available if the company continues to occupy the space — a $1 million one-time payment to cover relocation costs and an annual payment of $500 per employee.
I've got more on last night's vote over at The City Paper. An excerpt:
The Metro Council last night voted to preserve a policy offering lifetime health care benefits to former two-term council members. A bill sponsored by Councilman Phil Claiborne would have done away with the perk, but it was defeated by a vote of 14-23.
The primary opposition against the bill Tuesday night, however, came in response to the fact that the bill would not apply to current council members, thereby not including them in the cost-trimming effort at all.
“If a public policy is good for this government, then we should include ourselves when we vote for it,” said Councilman Jerry Maynard, before the vote. “If it is not good enough to pass while including us, then that should tell us something.”
Maynard is among those thought to be mulling a 2015 mayoral run, and as part of his comments he suggested that council members with future political ambitions should be willing to include themselves if they believed it was a good bill. He said it would be “hypocritical” to vote to take away the benefit from future council members, when he intended to take advantage of it.
Additionally, newly elected Democratic state Reps. Darren Jernigan and Bo Mitchell said they do plan on giving up their seats on the council before their terms are up in 2015. However, they said they don't want to force the city to pay for a special election, which means they'll serve in both roles until the next scheduled elections during which their seats can be filled, in August 2014.
Climate change got nary a mention during the recently concluded presidential campaign season. But the subject is on the agenda for tonight's Metro Council meeting.
Several council members are backing a resolution "supporting the reducing of greenhouse gas pollution under the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act." The sponsors include: Jason Holleman, Erica Gilmore, Brady Banks, Burkley Allen, Edith Taylor Langster, Anthony Davis, and Sandra Moore.
The full text of the resolution appears after the jump. Symbolic as they are — in this case a copy would be sent to the EPA and President Barack Obama — resolutions often pass without much discussion, if any at all. If this item sparks any debate, among the council or the public, expect it to be particularly focused on this line: "The Council further goes on record as noting that climate change is not an abstract problem for the future or one that will only affect far-distant places, but rather climate change is happening now, we are contributing to it, and the longer we wait to act, the more we lose and the more difficult the problem will be to solve."
In an email to Pith, Holleman explained where the resolution came from and why he decided to bring it to the council.
"This resolution was brought to me by the student environmental advocacy organization at Vanderbilt," he wrote. "I agreed to support it because I think it's important that we send the message that we want act deliberately to be more sustainable in how we grow and behave as a city. The statement in this resolution seems particularly timely as we continue the conversation about how to build a more comprehensive mass transit system in our city."
Over at The City Paper, Steve Cavendish reports that a proposed waste transfer station for Cleveland Park has residents fuming, and that the plant's primary legislative supporter, Councilman At-Large Jerry Maynard, is attempting to address concerns in advance of tomorrow's meeting of the Metro Council, which will consider the resolution.
In a letter to fellow council members last week, Councilman At-Large Jerry Maynard came out strongly in support of a resolution that would recommend a Waste Connections facility be allowed at 1000 Apex St. in East Nashville.
"I believe that blighted urban areas that are filled with high volumes of crime, illegal dumping and abandoned buildings must be transformed into areas of commerce, safe neighborhoods and economic engines when the opportunity arises," he wrote.
But the councilman for the area where the facility would be located, District 5’s Scott Davis, told The City Paper that his district "overwhelmingly" opposes the move.
Confusing the matter even more is the fact that Davis said originally he had no position on the resolution — and sought Maynard's advice — before a series of neighborhood meetings led him to oppose it. Maynard's letter makes it sound as though Davis supported the project. And some neighbors are still angry that Davis' name is still attached to the resolution, something Davis said is a quirk of the council's resolution process. By remaining the sponsor, he said, he controls the resolution.
"The average citizen doesn't know that," he said. "If I don't take ownership of it, I can't control it. If I didn't sign it, it would have gone straight to the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals). Then we would have a fight like they had in Bellevue. The Council is the best place to stop this."
"This" is a 100,000-square-foot warehouse, which Waste Connections would use as a drop-off point for small trucks hauling garbage. Up to 600 tons of waste would then be transferred to larger trucks and carried to a landfill in Kentucky. Area residents and neighborhood groups have been vocal in their opposition to the facility, citing concerns about traffic, smell, sewer lines and effects on property value. An online petition to oppose the project had received more than 500 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
At the CP, Garrison has thankfully condensed the three-hour hearing (during which, we're quite confident, speakers followed the request to avoid redundancy). A sampling, after the jump:
For this week's dead-tree Scene , I waded into Metro politics for some brief reportage on Mayor Karl Dean's proposal of the city's first property tax increase in seven years. Essentially, this amounts to an attempt to catch up to the City Paper's Joey Garrison, who's covered the matter extensively (and, as always, provided the Metro play-by-play on Twitter, may its name be praised).
In the course of trying to take the Metro Council's temperature on the mayor's proposal — which Garrison has also done a bit of — I talked with Antioch-area councilman Robert Duvall and at-large councilman Charlie Tygard, both of whom are conservatives. Duvall started speaking out against a tax increase before it was even proposed, while Tygard, a veteran member of the council who has lived through property-tax debates under several mayoral administrations, said he was "skeptical" but "not committed one way or another."
While chatting on the phone, though, neither hesitated to throw a few ideas at the wall that they say could shrink the tax increase, if not eliminate it altogether.
District 23 Councilwoman Emily Evans wants you to know she knows a thing or two about syntax, spelling and writing good.
In a post titled "MNPS Kan't Read" published on her blog over the weekend, Evans takes Metro Nashville Public Schools to the woodshed for poor grammar and run-on sentences she discovered on the school district's website (and elsewhere):
In response to a discussion among some residents of Hillwood about MNPS academic standards and rigor, I was directed to a portion of the Hillwood High School website dedicated to their Academic Scholars Program. There on the program's home page is a list of requirements including the "Academic Scholar Couselor [sic] Report." Thinking this misspelling might be an aberration or worried it was not I took a look at the Academic Scholars Application Form. There, under the section dedicated to the commitment necessary to participate is a sentence that would make my high school English teacher arise from the grave and go looking for her red pen.
According to Pith's copy of the Necronomicon, post-mortem reanimation rarely occurs as a result of poor English skills; usually it involves invoking an nameless ancient god and/or animal sacrifice. Usually.
Evans continues her grammatically sound critique by expressing dismay that two weeks after she first brought the errors to MNPS's attention, they still hadn't been fixed:
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Humphrey's column is excellent.
Wait, you're saying Dennis Ferrier sensationalized something? You're kidding! That's so unlike him.