Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mayor Barry Calls for funding of light rail transit, new employee benefits, and other massive spending in State of Metro Address

Mayor Barry delivers her 2017 State of Metro address
Metro Press Release, April 26, 2017- Mayor Megan Barry called on Nashvillians to “embrace the future” during her 2017 State of Metro Address held at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza, where she discussed Nashville’s transit future while detailing her recommended $2.2 billion fiscal year 2017-18 budget. Metro is expected to have the lowest combined property tax rate in its history at less than $3.16 per $100 of assessed value following the 2017 property reappraisal.

“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” said Mayor Barry. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor. I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could – and I might just do it anyway!”

Following the passage of Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, Mayor Barry announced her intention to work with the Metro Council and community partners to develop and present a transit plan to Nashville voters that will include dedicated sources of revenue to build high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro, and Charlotte Pikes, along with a Northwest Corridor from North Nashville to Clarksville.

Mayor Barry noted that the Gallatin Pike corridor is an obvious choice to start that process as it currently carries the most transit riders in the region, development along the corridor has demonstrated a market for transit-oriented development, and planning processes have shown that the neighborhoods along Gallatin support comprehensive mass transit.

“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” Mayor Barry said in announcing her intention to move forward with community partners to develop a transit referendum for the voters of Nashville. “We will be a 21st-century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we had to succeed.”

While looking towards the future of transit, Mayor Barry detailed her proposal to utilize the $119 million in new revenue that is a result of new buildings coming online and continued growth in business and tourism throughout the city. Highlights of the FY17-18 operating budget include:
  • $40.6M to promote fiscal responsibility through debt service payments, including $11.4M in reserves for future requirements.
  • $879M for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a 4.3%, $36M increase over FY16 to fund higher pay for teachers, literacy and ELL programs, and social emotional learning to help students manage emotions and maintain positive relationships.
  • $4M more for the Metro Nashville Police Department to fund 22 new officers for foot patrols that will enhance community policing efforts, as well as 48 new officers, 6 for each precinct, to better match the growth in population and improve response times.
  • $1.9M to the Nashville Fire Department to fully fund new EMS Medic units started in FY17, along with 14 new fire recruits and fire inspectors.
  • $18.1M in new funds to compensate Metro employees through a three-year pay plan, which will fund increments and 2% open range increases, along with a 2% cost of living adjustment for FY18, with 3% open range and COLA proposed for FY19 and FY20.
  • A $7M increase in the Metro Transit Authority subsidy, which is the largest single-year increase ever, to fund the elimination of transfer fees and extend the Music City Circuit to Tennessee State University along the Jefferson Street corridor.
  • $500,000 for the Metro Arts Commission to fund temporary public art projects and the THRIVE program to meet the neighborhood demand for public art and creative place-making projects, as well as increase funding for arts grants.
  • $500,000 to launch a Conservation Assistance Grant Program to leverage effective partnerships in conserving public and private lands and resources of conservation value in Davidson County.
Along with increases in pay, Mayor Barry announced that she will recommend a new Paid Family Leave policy to the Civil Service Commission that will allow Metro employees to take six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, or a seriously ill spouse, child or close relative.

“It’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our employees, and it’s the right thing to do for their families,” said Mayor Barry about the proposed Paid Family Leave policy. “It’s also the smart thing to do, because we want to attract and retain the best employees.”

Mayor Barry will also be releasing a capital spending plan in May to coincide with the release of the Mayor’s recommended Capital Improvements Budget. Some highlights released during the State of Metro include:
  • More than $35M for MTA to purchase 31 new hybrid buses to replace our aging diesel fleet, upgrade the fare collection system, and fund the implementation of the nMotion strategic plan for transit.
  • $65M for sidewalks and paving, $3M for sidewalks connected to schools, $2M for bikeways, and a doubling of funds over the previous year for the Mayor’s Intersection Improvement Program.
  • $15M for body and dash cameras, along with $8M for new laptops and printer equipment for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
  • Funds to build a community center and 2 ice rinks in Bellevue, a pocket park on Jefferson Street, expand the Hadley Park tennis center and start design on a new Hadley Park branch library.
  • $25M in general obligation bonds to fund new affordable housing programs.
“Growth has brought many exciting opportunities to our city, but it’s also made it difficult for many residents to stay here. The demand for housing has raised prices throughout the city, and we’ve responded by attacking the problem on multiple fronts,” Mayor Barry said in announcing two new innovative initiatives to fund, build, preserve, and retain affordable housing options.

The first would be to leverage the $25M in bonds to fund new affordable housing programs to purchase and rehab low-income housing that is at-risk of becoming unaffordable to tenants, as well as a program to allow Metro to build new affordable housing on city-owned property. The second is the creation of a new program to allow Metro to offer expedited property tax abatements to incentivize developers to build affordable units and rehab existing units. All of this is in addition to the Mayor’s continued commitment of $10M in operating funds for the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, and $2M for the Housing Incentive Pilot Program.

Metro Finance Director Talia Lomax-O’dneal will deliver a more in-depth presentation of the budget proposal to the Metro Council at 1:00PM today in the David Scobey Council Chamber in the Historic Metro Courthouse. Following delivery of the Mayor’s budget proposal, the Council and the Budget & Finance Committee will conduct public hearings as well as hearings with each individual department. The Council is required to pass a balanced budget by June 30, or the Mayor’s recommended budget proposal goes into effect by default.

The State of Metro Address featured the best-selling and most awarded female gospel artist of all time, Nashville native CeCe Winans, whose latest album, “Let Them Fall In Love,” debuted at the top of the charts. Winans performed “Never Have to Be Alone” and “Peace from God” for the crowd of more than 1000 attending the State of Metro.

The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands opened up the event, and Nashville’s 2016 Youth Poet Laureate and Nashville School of the Arts junior Gray Bulla read a poem written for the occasion.

Charles Strobel, founding director of Room in the Inn, gave the invocation for the State of Metro, which concluded with Blessings for Our City from four Nashville faith leaders - Pastor of Church Life Frank Stevenson of Olive Branch Church, Rabbi Laurie Rice of Congregation Micah, Imam Ossama Bahloul of the Islamic Center of Nashville, and Bishop Dr. José Rodriguez of Casa de Dios Apostolic Church - in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish respectively.

To read the Tennessean report on the State of Metro address see,  Mayor Barry commits to light rail on Gallatin Pike, kicks off public vote for funding transit,

To read the full text of the address follow this link: State of Metro address.

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