Mayor's budget plan calls for city to restructure debt - WKRN News 2

Mayor's budget plan calls for city to restructure debt

Posted: Updated: April 29, 2010 01:57 PM CDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Mayor Karl Dean on Thursday outlined his budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year in his annual State of Metro Address.

Standing on the banks of the Cumberland River, the mayor emphasized three key points essential to the city's continued growth; keeping taxes low, maintaining core services and investing in the city's future.  He said Nashville would take advantage of historically low interest rates and restructure debt in order to balance this year's budget.

Mayor Dean's plan again this year does not call for a property tax increase.

"We won't be asking for a property tax increase this year," the mayor said after a performance by bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.

He added it would be unfair to balance the government's budget on the backs of Nashville's citizens and raising property taxes would only have a negative impact on "the community as a whole."

While most city departments would face a 5% cut under the plan, neither the Nashville police nor fire departments would lose a single sworn position and the cuts each face would be minimal.

Mayor Dean said the city's safety would in no way be compromised.  He said for the first time in five years the Metro Nashville Police Department is fully staffed.

Under his plan, two new police precincts would be added in Madison and southeast Davidson County and the police department would begin to staff a crime lab scheduled to open in 2011.

Southeast Davidson County, an area identified by the mayor as "fastest growing" would also receive a new community center, health center and elementary school.  Construction of a new fire hall is already underway.

Under the mayor's proposal, city parks and libraries would maintain their hours of operation and none would close.

The services offered by the Metro Public Works Department would not change and no bus routes would be cut.

Mayor Dean said his budget calls for the city to fully fund the school district's $633 million budget, which includes $25 million more from the city's general fund than last year.

In addition, the mayor said the city's employees have gone too long without a pay increase and his plan includes a 2% bonus across the board.  Longevity pay would also be restored, Dean said.

In discussing investments for the city's future, the mayor cited the water main repair project to replace aging infrastructure, among other ongoing projects, and named upcoming projects his budget would fund such as a new public health department to replace Lentz Public Health Center, a new library in Bellevue and the 28th Avenue connector to link north Nashville and west Nashville.

Mayor Dean also stressed the importance of improving and expanding the city's sidewalks, greenways and bike trails to insure citizens have access to healthier options to, in turn, improve the overall health of the city.

He called Nashville a "healthcare city," saying "we should be one of the healthiest in America," adding, "Instead, we're the opposite."

Dean said he allotted funding in his budget to develop a progressive open space plan in order to identify parts of Davidson County lacking green space.  Under the plan, green space would be conserved and/or created where needed.

The mayor said his plan would also invest in the area of mass transit and adult literacy in an effort to help the estimated 52,000 Davidson County residents who are unable to read.

The mayor's finance chief was scheduled to meet with the Metro Council to review the budget plan following the address.

Council members must approve the budget before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

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