Apr 28, 2022 - News

Cooper prioritizes education, housing in State of Metro address

Photo illustration of Nashville Mayor John Cooper with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images

Nashville Mayor John Cooper proposed a record spending increase for schools and a dedicated funding source for affordable housing initiatives as part of the annual State of Metro address Wednesday.

Why it matters: Cooper's agenda seeks to take on Nashville's affordability crisis and return to kitchen table issues like education, housing and public safety.

  • Cooper didn't mention the possibility of a new Titans stadium or the recently approved deal to purchase the Hickory Hollow Mall and lease it to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for a health care facility.

Details: Cooper proposed increasing funding for Metro Nashville Public Schools by $91.2 million, a new record for the district's annual budget.

  • The funds would be used for 4% cost-of-living raises for teachers and other district staffers. Cooper said the money will help increase pay for bus drivers and fill approximately 150 vacancies.
  • He touted the addition of paid family medical leave for all MNPS employees.

Flashback: Cooper's administration also set records last year for teacher pay raises (about $7,000 per teacher), and for new school buildings and construction ($191 million).

  • Over the last three years, his administration has allocated a combined $397 million for capital projects like the new James Lawson High School in Bellevue.

By the numbers: Cooper made news during his speech Wednesday with the commitment to work with Metro Council to pass legislation that would create a first-ever dedicated funding source for affordable housing initiatives.

  • The mayor proposed earmarking property tax revenue from the Music City Center for affordable housing. That comes out to $14.3 million annually, according to the most recent property tax appraisal.
  • He is proposing $20 million for the operating budget, supplemented by $30 million in federal pandemic relief funds for affordable housing investments in the next year.
  • Cooper also committed $50 million in federal relief funds to address homelessness.

What he's saying: "As we grow, we must do so in a way that works for every neighborhood, and make sure no one gets left behind," Cooper said to conclude his address. "That requires investing alongside our growth and innovating to keep pace with the challenges presented by our growth."

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