Thursday, April 29, 2021

Mayor Cooper Delivers 58th State of Metro Address. Spending money like there is no tommorow.

Mayor Shares Plans to Make Nashville’s Teachers the State’s Highest-Paid, Invest in Affordable Housing, Transportation and First Responders

Metro Nashville press release, 4/29/2021 -  Mayor John Cooper today announced plans to make Nashville’s teachers the state’s highest-paid, triple the city’s dollars for affordable housing and build up Metro’s transportation capacity. 

The mayor called for investments in the Metro employees who served the city through a year of crisis and pledged to implement every-other-week recycling at his State of Metro address, delivered at the Music City Center in a nod to Nashville’s rebound.  That location - once eyed for 1,600 pandemic-time beds - is now a bustling vaccination site as public health restrictions approach a May 14 end.

“Last year’s budget was a crisis budget. This year’s budget is an investment budget,” Mayor Cooper said. “Nashville is on the rise. A city on the rise must rise to the occasion. And, for a city to really work, it must work for everyone – and every neighborhood.” 

Those neighborhood investments include restoring funding for WeGo bus service and hiring 80 additional emergency responders to serve the city.

“It’s a new day in Nashville,” Mayor Cooper said. “We’ve weathered the storm. And we have a new opportunity to rise, together.” 

A “Golden Moment” for Education 
Under Mayor Cooper’s plan, the average Metro teacher’s salary will jump by $6,924. Educators with 8 to 15 years’ experience will receive a $10,880 increase. “A city on the rise must give everyone the opportunity to rise with it. Opportunity starts with education, and an excellent education starts with well-funded schools,” Mayor Cooper said. “We owe it to every child to make investments that match their potential.” Today’s proposed $81 million marks Nashville’s largest operating investment in education. It follows the mayor’s recent, record capital investment for schools and fully funds the School Board’s request for the first time in years. 

“Throughout my career at Metro Schools, I’ve never seen such a strong commitment and support from a Mayor for our public schools and the teaching profession,” said Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle. “Mayor Cooper’s proposed record investment will allow the district to retain and recruit great teachers who want to make a difference in the lives and academic success of students and who simply want their compensation to reflect the value they bring to our city and the residents who call Nashville home,” she added. 

Building Up Metro’s Transportation Workforce Capacity 
Four months after Metro Council adopted the mayor’s transportation plan, Nashville has secured upward of $15 million in state and federal funding to pay for it. With more potential funding on the way, a local Department of Transportation (DoT) is now as essential in Nashville as it has been in peer cities. A proposed $3.5 million will operationalize a local DoT – including a new traffic management center – doubling the number of Metro employees who are focused on calming traffic, timing traffic signals more efficiently, building bike lanes and meeting the mayor’s directive to cut sidewalk-construction times in half. Meanwhile, another $25 million will restore funding for WeGo bus service, which Metro subsidized last year using one-time federal relief dollars. 

Sharpening Nashville’s Affordable Housing Tools 
After convening an Affordable Housing Task Force, the mayor today proposed immediate action on five of their recommendations: His proposal triples the city’s affordable housing dollars: 
  • $2.5 million more to the Barnes Fund 
  • $20 million in American Rescue Plan dollars to develop affordable units – including $10 million for the Barnes Fund and $10 million to seed a Catalyst Housing Fund 
Mayor Cooper also announced plans to build affordable housing on Metro-owned property located on 24th Ave. N. in a process that will include robust community input. Meanwhile, a payment in lieu of taxes program will encourage affordable housing participation from the private sector in an increasingly expensive building environment. And Courtney Pogue, named after a national search as the mayor’s Economic Development chief, will chart a master plan for tying economic development to affordable housing – as well as education, workforce development and small business growth. 

A Community Response to Community Safety 
  • After a year that proved how much Nashville relies on its first responders, Mayor Cooper proposed: $460,000 to increase the Office of Emergency Management’s operating budget by 49 percent 
  • $9.8 million to hire 40 new firefighters and 20 new emergency medical technicians (EMTs) 
  • $12.2 million to hire 48 new law enforcement officers for Nashville’s new Southeast police precinct, including 8 sergeants for body camera evaluation 
Another $1.1 million will increase funding for Metro’s Office of Family Safety by 62 percent. Nashville is one of only two cities in the U.S. with its own, dedicated department to serve victims of interpersonal violence. Last year, client visits to this office jumped by 29 percent. Meanwhile, Ron Johnson, Metro’s first community safety coordinator, will oversee a recently allocated $2 million in community safety innovation and partnership grants for neighborhood groups working to prevent gun and other violent crimes. Johnson, known as a lifelong coalition builder, will support these groups. 

Meeting Nashville’s Growing Needs: 
Investing in Metro’s Workforce The mayor proposed funding Metro’s employee pay plan with an investment of more than $30.4 million. As a percentage of Nashville’s population, Metro General Government has fewer employees than it did a decade ago. Nonetheless, city employees are efficiently delivering neighborhood services – for example, speeding up 9-1-1 answer times by 26 percent, filling potholes in 3.3 days and picking up 99.75 percent of the city’s trash and recycling on time. 

Protecting Our Climate and Environment 
Mayor Cooper proposed increasing Metro’s residential recycling from once to twice a month – another step toward cutting the city’s carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, generating 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 and reaching 100 percent renewable energy in 20 years. “Last year’s budget crisis prevented us from being able to act on this initiative,” he said. “But it’s time to commit to more frequent recycling service to divert waste from our landfills. Sustainability is more than a priority for Metro – it is a promise to create a future that is worthy of our children.” 

Next Steps 
The mayor will submit his operating budget plan for Fiscal Year 2022 on Friday, April 30. It goes before Metro Council for consideration and approval.

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