Facing a $34 million budget shortfall, Nashville Mayor David Briley has proposed a belt-tightening budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Briley said the budget will address financial challenges without raising taxes.
One item causing anger and frustration for Metro employees is an attempt to eliminate cost-of-living pay increases in the next budget.
Last year, the Metro Council approved an across-the-board employee payment plan for three years, which included a three percent cost-of-living pay increase during the next fiscal year.
Briley’s proposal still includes merit-based and step increases, but gives Metro employees no cost-of-living pay increases.
James Smallwood, president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, sent an email to officers to let them know about the plan to eliminate the cost-of-living raise.
“Like you, we are fed up with this never-ending cycle of broken promises,” Smallwood wrote.
Smallwood told News 2 Wednesday he’s disappointed in the decision to take away the pay increases.
“We took that as a promise from our city that they were going to make us whole from years where we weren’t given any kind of increments whatsoever,” said Smallwood. “We were again told this year that this was going to be part of the budget. Now it’s not in there.”
Firefighters are also upset with the proposal.
Mark Young, president of the International Association of Firefighters in Nashville, broke the news to the rank and file.
“We have received a message,” Young told News 2. “Continue doing more with less. And this year, we’re going to give you zero.”
In a statement to News 2 Wednesday, Mayor David Briley responded to the criticism, saying, “With the shortfall in revenue and no tax increase, we do not have the funds to meet the cost-of-living commitment. This was a very tough decision and I wish we could do more for all of our incredibly dedicated employees. It is not what we wanted, but it is where we are.”
But many Metro employees see the remarkable growth of Nashville and wonder where all the tax money is going.
“When I visit the fire halls, that’s the question I get most often,” said Young. “How does this city not have any money to fund these pay raises? With all the growth going on in the city?”
“We’ve got to start taking care of the people that are responsible for the success of this city,” Smallwood said. “Otherwise, we’ll start to see the city fail.”
Mayor Briley will deliver the annual State of Metro address on Friday where he will discuss next year’s budget proposal in more detail.