Metro Nashville Faces Reality of Heavy Borrowing in $34 Million Revenue Shortfall

John Cooper

Surprise! Nashville is growing skyscrapers and other developments at an ever-increasing rate yet faces a $34 million revenue shortfall.

Councilman-at-large John Cooper, who is on Metro’s Budget and Finance Committee says Nashville’s revenue continues to grow faster than most cities, to the tune of a couple billion dollars, NewsChannel 5 reports. At the same time, Metro can’t fully fund schools or provide promised pay raises to employees, and some are calling for a property tax hike.

Nashville has been glutted with massive capital projects despite some narrow misses.

Most of the new money has gone to debt service to pay for pretty and shiny projects like the Sounds baseball stadium and the convention center, plus more conventional needs like school improvements. Borrowing costs have increased about $100 million in the last five years.

Former Mayor Megan Barry’s resignation earlier this year following a sex and ethics scandal was followed by the failure of the $9 billion transit plan, the Nashville Scene reports. Then there was Barry’s quickly abandoned plan to end inpatient care at Metro General Hospital, the same week that the Metro Council approved a $275 million soccer stadium plan; the proposed Cloud Hill development, a sweetheart deal for developers that Barry also abandoned; and Mayor David Briley’s recent failed attempt to resurrect the downtown flood-wall proposal.

Cooper points out most of the hotel taxes are dedicated to pay for the new convention center, NewsChannel 5 says. That is not the only tax stream that is dedicated to specific projects instead of funding schools and police salaries.

Councilman-at-large Bob Mendes is leading the charge to raise the combined property tax rate by 50 cents, from $3.155 to $3.655 per $100, the Scene says. That would generate around $150 million in revenue,to more than cover pay raises and a call by Metro Nashville Public Schools for $40 million more. Briley opposes the plan.

The council must approve the budget by the end of June.

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