November UPDATE / 11.20.19
It’s been a busy couple of months, but I wanted to take a moment before year-end to bring you up to date on what your metro council has been up to.
Our Financial Bind
One of the more critical issues facing our city is the current budget and debt situation. We have been working hard to evaluate the problems that have put us in our financial bind. We have passed legislation to ensure there is more transparency.
The budget for 2019/2020 was not balanced. It was short in revenue by $41.5M. The original budget proposed by former Mayor Briley included revenue from the proposed sale of city parking meters ($30M) and energy systems ($11.5M). These sales have been placed on hold. Selling county-owned assets is a poor idea, as it is non-recurring revenue.
Significant debt has been added over the past several years, and debt has also been understated in several projects. An example of this is found in the construction cost of the new Sheriffs’ office, which is estimated to be $17M over budget. That project was originally estimated to be $40M, but only $21M was appropriated for it. The Council has just passed new legislation to prevent this kind of shortfall in the future. Bill No. BL2019-77 requires disclosure of full cost itemizations prior to submission of capital expenditure authorization. This will provide clarity regarding the total costs of capital projects, so the Council will know whether sufficient funding has been allocated for projects to be funded as part of a capital spending plan.
Our debt is over $4 Billion. It is the 3rd highest debt per capita in the US at over $6K per person. This has caused the State Comptroller to address the issues with a possible intervention. Click here for the Mayor’s Budget Presentation on the Budget Gap and the Mayors Director of Finance Kevin Crumbo to the State Comptroller with a Corrective Action Plan.
The State Comptroller presented the Mayor and Metro Council with several mandates:
Ensure there is a structurally balanced budget.
Ensure there is a cash management policy.
Ensure there are Audited Comprehensive Financial Reports (CAFR) by 12/31/19
Mayor Cooper’s Director of Finance, Kevin Crumbo, outlined a Corrective Action Plan to balance the budget. The plan was sent to the State Comptroller Justin Wilson and presented to the Finance Committee on 12/11. (See Page 4 on Kevin Crumbo’s letter.)
The State Comptroller has accepted the current action plan.
The action plan to balance the budget did not require Metro Council Approval.
I believe that Mayor Cooper and Kevin Crumbo did an outstanding job of providing a balanced budget in a very short time that was accepted by the Comptroller. Solutions did not require cuts in the departments and did not impact any staffing. The significant issue was the reduction of the Barnes funds (this fund supports affordable housing). This is a very important allocation. Still, we will have adequate funding to the end of the year, and as taxes may come in higher, the funds can be allocated back into the Barnes fund.
The challenges will be with our next budget that will be presented in June 2020. We have significant debt and payments that will have to be accounted for. As a member of the Budget, Finance, and Audit committees, I am in a good position to be involved in the next budget cycle. Next year’s budget will start coming under review in April, and I will keep you updated.
District 23 PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL
We are continuing to form our Partnership Council and committees. We plan on having organizing committee meetings on January 6th and have our next full Partnership Council in February.
Improve our neighborhoods and greenways with plantings, cleanups, and improvements.
Build our own District 23 Business Chamber of Commerce that can help support our neighborhood businesses and develop community funding for projects.
Develop strong community support for the three public schools and the students in our district. (West Meade Elementary, HG Hill Middle School, Hillwood HS) For example, HG Hill has a Pantry for students in need, West Meade has a very active garden, and Hillwood HS has thematic academies that could use mentors and speakers. Our next meeting is on January 6th at 6 pm at HG Hill Middle School.
Plan and coordinate events throughout the District. Ideas could include a Holiday Lighting Contest, Carriage Rides, Harvest Festival and Riding Mower Parade, Movies and Food Trucks in the Park, etc.
Welcome new neighbors and help those neighbors that may have needs.
The District Partnership Council includes the following areas and our contacts. The purpose is to leverage resources for our neighborhood.
City of Belle Meade – Rusty Moore, Commissioner
Belle Meade Links – Sarah Wray
Belle Meade Courts – Tom McNeill
Hillwood Neighborhood Association – Kathy Baker and Maggie Dicks
Warner Park Neighborhood Association – Karl Kersey, Boots and Carole Donnelly, Highlands-Anita and Steve Rich
West Meade Parks – Jena Armistead and Jim Walton
West Meade Neighborhood Association – Paul Garland and Wayne Underhill
Happening in the neighborhood
New Vet Office
6300 Highway 100 is currently an empty lot. I have met with the owner/veterinarian. I am impressed with his apparent intention to be a good neighbor and to preserve the historic well and springhouse on the property. The Director of Historic Planning met with the owner and me. He was also satisfied that the planned development of a trail, down to the well and springhouse, will protect the site and make it accessible.
There is a plan to convert a building on Leake and HWY 100 to a Dunkin Donuts. It is currently in planning, and I will update you when I have more information.
Congratulations, Belle Meade Police Chief Tim Eads. He received an award from Tennessee Law Achievement for Police Best Practices.
We have so many generous people in our district working to help the less fortunate. Here are just a few examples.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Boulevard Bolt was held in Belle Meade. Once again, the organizers and participants did an amazing job putting on a great race and raising money to feed the hungry in Nashville.
In West Meade, we have had a lot of fantastic support for HG Hill Middle School. Community Achieves Site Manager Maggie Dicks has been communicating the needs of students at the middle school, and our community has responded generously. Donations have been delivered from Lou Wilbanks, Sheila Schell, and Ladies of Charity, among others. Belle Meade United Methodist Church, through members Wayne and Ann Underhill, coordinated and distributed over 700 gift-baskets to students at the middle school.
Belle Meade United Methodist Church, through members Wayne and Ann Underhill, coordinated and distributed over 700 gift-baskets to students at the middle school.
In Hillwood, Christina Ward Bennett has put the word out about student need at Nashville State Community College. Many of the students there work, attend class, and find themselves short of funds for basic needs. Christina posted a list of useful items and has collected and made weekly deliveries to the school.
So many neighbors have responded to the needs of Marie, our local Contributor seller, who has been out of work due to illness. Mary Adair has been coordinating aid to Marie, and I understand she is grateful for all the donations and well wishes from our neighborhood.
Since Christmas and New Years both fall on Wednesday, our trash collection day will be the following Saturdays.
Some questions come up frequently about traffic calming and speeding in our neighborhood. Our next partnership meeting in February will include a discussion of these concerns with members from the departments of public works and traffic calming.
HUB for help. Just a reminder that if a non-emergency issue arises and you need an answer quickly, or you don’t know who to go to for an answer, you can reach hub.nashville.gov or 311.
Paving on Davidson has been slightly smoothed, but the final paving cannot be done until spring because of cold weather.
I have enjoyed meeting so many neighbors over the past several months.
It has been a privilege to assist with questions about zoning, traffic, water runoff, paving and construction. I plan to continue our Saturday morning "Coffee with Your Councilman" in January. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns.
Margie, the kids, and I send our best wishes to all for Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year.
Stay in touch, please.
My new contact info is:
Cell phone: 615-767-6458
If you have any information, announcements, or events you want to be shared, please send them to me.