Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sheriff Daron Hall asked to find $636,300 in "targeted savings." Hall says, "absolutely not."

Sheriff Daron Hall
by Rod Williams - When the Mayor asked Sheriff Daron Hall to find $636,300 in "targeted savings," and Hall was asked by the media if he could meet that request and he said, "absolutely not."

Earlier this month the Tennessee Comptroller sent the Mayor and Metro Council Members a letter expressing concern about Metro's finances. The two areas of concern were we had insufficient reserves and the budget did not balance.

The mayor had counted as revenue, the anticipated up front payment from a plan to privatize Metro's parking meter operations.  When that plan ran into wide-spread opposition, Briley pulled the plug on the plan. That left a $30 million hole in the budget. Briley did not raise the $30 million elsewhere, nor did he cut expenses by $30 million. The letter from the Comptroller not only raised concern, it said that Metro had until Sept. 20th  to fix the problems or Metro would not be permitted to sale Tax Anticipation Notes.  Cities routinely engage in tax anticipation borrowing, because some bills come due before the revenue come in.

To fix this problem, Briely has told departments to find "savings" in their budget and has given each department a target of savings to find. Not all departments of local government work for the mayor.  The County Clerk is an elected official; the Metro Clerk is a Department head.  The Sheriff is an elected official; the Chief of Police is a department head. All of their budgets however are part of the Metro Budget.

When the mayor tells a subordinate department head to find savings, they are likely to do so.  With time, some Department heads do become somewhat independent and powerful, nevertheless, they work for the mayor.  Elected officials do not work for the mayor.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall is obviously frustrated with Metro's financial state of affairs. "I've been here all my life, living in Nashville," he told a local reporter. "It's the biggest boom we've ever had, but we don't have any money."

"If the Mayor's Office wants to cut people's budgets they should do that in a public way so the Council could ask 'What does that mean to you?' Don't do it a week after the budget is approved, telling me what the planned savings are," said Hall.

If Metro does not balance its budget and the Comptroller does not allow Metro to sell Tax Anticipation notes, then Metro could run out of money to pay its bills and would be facing decisions such as defaulting on its bonds or not meeting payroll.  We are no where near that yet, but this has to be resolved are we could be.  Eventually, the Comptroller could step in and talk over Metro's finances and order cuts or even raise taxes. This is serious. 

Serious through it is, I do not fault Hall for not playing ball. There is a process for passing a budget. Briley blew it. Let him negotiate with the Comptroller and go back and pass a budget that respects process and transparency.  Unless Briley resolves this, Bill Boner will lose his title as Nashville's worst mayor.

For source material see this link.

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