Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nashville parks approves budget plan avoiding mass layoffs

$850,000 sought from city reserves By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • November 14, 2009 The Nashville Parks & Recreation Board on Friday approved a plan presented by Mayor Karl Dean's administration that balances the department's budget while avoiding the extensive layoffs being considered. The board approved a plan that will lay off five parks workers, while also asking Metro Council for an emergency appropriation of $850,000 from the city's rainy-day fund. More workers could face layoffs in the near future, as the board will decide in the coming weeks how to cut $200,000 from its recreational and cultural wellness programs. The $850,000 would come from Metro's $15 million reserve fund, and a resolution appropriating the money probably will go to the Metro Council for approval in January. Most of the cuts approved by the board are administrative and do not result in layoffs or service reductions to the public. In fact the plan, presented by Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, one of Dean's top aides, will lead to no service reductions at parks facilities. "This doesn't end the issues — we need to continue to work on ways to address that," Riebeling said, referring to cost overruns at the parks department. He added that the administration's goal was to make a recommendation to the board that avoided closing facilities. "This certainly looks better than what we were considering on Tuesday," board member George Anderson said. About 55 faced job loss The board was looking at laying off about 55 workers in addition to closing five community centers and trimming operating hours at other facilities to help balance an anticipated $1.7 million overage for the current fiscal year. The board passed the move with a 4-1 vote. Dissention came from board member James Lawson, who said he wanted to see how the recreational and cultural wellness programs would be cut before he approved a plan. Councilman Jerry Maynard called the board move a "win-win" because it called for fewer layoffs and avoided closing facilities. The Metro Council will hold a special meeting on Monday to hear a presentation from the board and Parks Director Roy Wilson regarding the plan to balance the budget. Wilson had no comment regarding the board action.

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