Mayor Megan Barry's budget "discussions," began yesterday. Budget "discussions" have always previously been called "budget hearings." I guess "discussions" sounds a lot more warm and fussy. At the "budget discussions," each department head makes an appearance usually along with their chief staff members. This year the mayor has announced she will not be seeking a tax increase so the department heads know not to ask for a big increase. Since Metro is awash in money, there is plenty of money to go around without a tax increase this year. In years when the mayor has already indicated he will be asking for an increase, the department heads really poor-mouth it and say they can not possibly do their job without more money and explains how the need for the service they provide is greatly outstripping the service the city provides.
The mayor usually thanks the department head for doing a great job, the department head or his assistance update the mayor on major projects or changes occurring in the department, the mayor ask a couple questions about staffing issues or something and the department head may justify any increase budget request. The process only takes a few minutes for a small agency and maybe 45 minutes for a larger agency.
The budget "discussions" which began yesterday will continue until March 17th. Metro School's budget "discussion" will occur on April 13. For a schedule of the "discussions" follow this link. If a member of the public wants to attend one of these discussions, they may attend but can not take part in the discussion. One may watch the discussions live on Metro Nashville Network or Metro streams them on Nashville.gov. If you missed a Department's budget discussion, they will re-run on Metro Nashville Network and are available on the Metro Government YouTube Channel.
Once the mayor has completed her budget discussions, the mayor's proposed budget is presented to the Council and then the Council has budget hearings. At lease I think what the Council has is budget "hearings," but it may be "discussions." The Council then may modify the mayor's budget and then it becomes the council's budget or they may vote on the mayor's budget without changing anything. Due to the way the Metro Charter is written, if the Council does not pass a budget the mayor's budget becomes the city budget by default. A vote against the alternative budget before the Council is in effect a vote for the mayor's budget. If there is not an alternative budget before the Council and one votes against the mayor's budget, the effect of such a vote is to vote for the mayor's budget. You read that right.