May 17, 2022 - Politics

Metro budget hearings begin this week

Illustration of Nashville City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Welcome to Metro budget season!

Driving the news: Metro Council begins reviewing the city's $2.96 billion operating budget with hearings on Wednesday.

  • The top officials from each city department will appear before the budget and finance committee to discuss their spending plans.

Why it matters: Mayor John Cooper proposed the largest increase in Metro Nashville Public Schools spending in city history as well as the first dedicated funding source for affordable housing initiatives.

  • Metro is also two years removed from the largest property tax increase in Nashville history. Combined with federal pandemic relief funds and a better-than-expected economic recovery, the city is positioned to both grow its reserves and increase spending this year.

Be smart: Watching these hearings is the best way to understand how the city budget comes together. A full schedule is on the council website and more resources — including detailed budget documents — can be found here.

Get involved: Your chance to weigh in on the proposed budget is 6:30pm on June 7 with a public hearing at the historic Metro courthouse.

What she's saying: Metro Councilmember Burkley Allen, who chairs the budget and finance committee, tells Axios the headlining issue in this year's budget is the increased spending on affordable housing and programs to combat homelessness.

  • "Now that's good," Allen tells Axios. "I think the devil's in the details for how that's distributed."

Allen also expects Metro Council to closely examine whether Cooper's proposed pay raises for Metro and MNPS workers are enough to keep up with inflation and the ever-rising cost of living in Nashville.

Why it matters: Cooper has proposed a 4% cost-of-living increase in addition to regularly scheduled pay raises.

Details: A recent report by the Metro Civil Service Commission concluded that 5% pay raises for government employees would be appropriate.

  • "Another thing I think we're going to be dealing with is how the salary increase ties into inflation and the HR Department's [Civil Service Commission] review," Allen says. "Four percent seems kind of generous, except they recommended 5%. I think that's a topic that's going to come up."

The intrigue: The Service Employees International Union is pushing to direct more funding to member employees who serve as bus drivers, sign language interpreters, bookkeepers and cafeteria workers.

  • Cooper earmarked an additional $91.2 million for MNPS's budget, including pay raises and family medical leave for all district employees.
  • The school board debated allocating more funding for pay raises at its meeting earlier this month.

What he's saying: "We want a pay plan that is fair and equitable and lifts all support employees, and we are glad that the school board decided to take a closer look themselves before adopting their budget," SEIU Local 205 president Brad Rayson tells Axios.

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