Friday, May 4, 2012

Closing Parks and Libraries

I got the below letter from the Mayor today.  From  watching the various departmental budget hearings and from news reports, I, as I think most observers, was expecting a tax increase proposal. However, from watching the budget hearings, I did not get the impression that libraries or parks would close without a tax increase. (Watch the libraries budget hearing here. They made no plea for more money.)
 
I do think that without a tax increase the city would have to lay off some firemen and some policemen and some needed road work would not get done. The city will have to make a hard choice between more funding for services or cutting services. Perhaps what the mayor is saying is that without a tax increase, that in order to keep the firemen and policemen that were hired with one-time federal stimulus money, he would close libraries and parks and use that money to keep the police and firemen.

I think every time any Mayor has ever wanted a tax increase in the city of Nashville, they have used closing parks and libraries as a threat to get their tax increase. 
 
The Council passes a budget that appropriates money to each department. If the Council wants to pass a no-tax-increase budget and keep parks and libraries open they can do so. 

I can tell the Council where to find a quarter million easy dollars: Abolish the Department of Human Relations, a department that ought to be abolished anyway. That would fund about three or four policemen.
Dear Rod:

This week, I delivered my annual State of Metro Address at our city’s new Cumberland Park. I offered an optimistic vision for our future and I outlined a plan for moving Nashville forward – especially in our shared priorities of K-12 education and public safety. Now, I need your help communicating the importance of this plan and investing in our future. 
 
As you have heard or read by now, my 2012-13 budget proposal for Metro Government includes increasing the local property tax rate. For a typical household, this will mean an extra $16 per month, or $192 per year. Arriving at this decision was difficult, but I believe the alternative is simply not an option.

Without additional tax revenue in the upcoming budget year, we would have to take drastic measures, including but not limited to: laying off police officers, closing parks and libraries, and forgoing much-needed repairs to roads and sidewalks. As important, the city would not be able to maintain and increase its investments in K-12 education, including long-deferred repairs to public school buildings and a long-overdue increase for starting teacher pay – an area where we are seriously behind relative to school districts across Tennessee. Without action, I believe our city would suffer from these setbacks for decades to come.

How can you help? Talk to your neighbors and your representatives on the Metro Council and let them know that you support the plan to move Nashville forward. And help me explain why it’s necessary.

The reality is: Since I took office in 2007, Metro agencies and services – except for our police and schools – have been cut year after year due to lack of revenue growth. Overall, Metro departments’ budgets have been reduced by $59.2 million. During my first term, I chose to avoid raising property taxes in the midst of a recession, and instead called on our agencies and departments to do more with less. And they responded.

The result is: Our government is leaner and more efficient than ever. But after four consecutive years of cuts, there is little fat left to trim. A tax rate adjustment is needed. As proposed, the adjustment essentially would restore the property tax rate to its previous level in 2007.

To recap: I believe our city must keep going forward, not backward. Through a combination of strong management and budget cuts over the past four years, Metro Government has become leaner and more efficient. But without additional revenue, we would be forced to undertake drastic measures, including layoffs of vital public employees and significant reductions to basic public services. Instead, we need to invest in these things to keep our city on the right track, which helps ensure safety and a good quality of life for all of our citizens.

Help me continue our city’s success. Let your council member know that you support the plan to move Nashville forward. And if you have any questions, feel free to contact my office at mayor@nashville.gov.

Thank you for your friendship and support. And thanks, especially, for your commitment to keep Nashville moving forward.
 
Sincerely,

Karl Dean
Mayor

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