Thursday, April 1, 2010

Proposed budget cuts weigh heavy on Metro Nashville

Brush pickup, library hours face cuts By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • April 1, 2010 The sober realities of next year's Metro budget came into focus Wednesday as some of the city's largest departments had their hearings with Mayor Karl Dean. Hundreds of Metro employees face layoffs and some of the city's direct services to the public could be trimmed or cut altogether. "Today was the day the challenges of this budget process became clear," Metro Councilman Ronnie Steine, chairman of the budget and finance committee, said, "especially with the proposed cuts to Public Works." The department, which is responsible for maintaining the city's streets and sidewalks, and overseeing trash and recycling programs, said it would need to cut 38 employees and stop countywide brush collection if Dean enacts the 7.5 percent budget cut that is being considered. Dean's administration pointed out that the 7.5 percent cut is merely a guideline. One of Dean's top aides, Finance Director Rich Riebeling, acknowledged that Public Works has faced deep cuts in recent years. "I think it's fair to say they've been hit the hardest in the last few years," Riebeling said. Similarly, Metro public libraries, which cut hours and staff in recent years, offered a proposal that would reduce operations from 50 to 40 hours per week at the Bordeaux, Edmondson Pike, Green Hills, Hermitage and Madison libraries. Community libraries across Davidson County would go from being open 40 hours per week to being open just 20 hours per week. The Metro Codes Department discussed its plans with Dean to raise the filing fees paid by developers and homeowners by 30 percent. The fee increases are meant to cover the escalating cost of providing the services offered by the department. But Director Terry Cobb also said the department's proposed budget cut would see five inspectors lose their jobs, which could hurt the services provided to the development community despite the fee increases. "They are concerned we would consider reducing their service (in the same year their fees go up)," Cobb said. The prospect of layoffs and service reductions also faces Metro Parks, according to interim executive director Tommy Lynch, who said, "The maintenance side of our parks, play fields and buildings will continue to be a challenge." Lynch, who took over the department after former Director Roy Wilson came under fire for a $1.7 million budget overrun, said parks would need additional money from the city's rainy day fund to get through the remainder of this year. He did not specify the amount, though he said it would be small. The city's budget hearings will conclude today. The schools budget will be discussed at a separate April 13 hearing.

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