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Mayor’s Budget Plan Places Education, Transportation and Neighborhoods Front and Center

Andrea Fanta

After sharing his vision for a Nashville that works for everyone, Mayor John Cooper today presented a budget plan for achieving that goal.

It includes investments to make Nashville’s teachers Tennessee’s highest-paid, build up Metro’s transportation capacity and support a tripling of city dollars for affordable housing.

The mayor’s strategy invests more than $30.4 million in Metro employees who served Nashville through an unprecedented year, brings more than 108 additional emergency responders to serve neighborhoods and funds every-other-week recycling.

“Last year’s budget was a crisis budget. This year’s budget is an investment budget,” Mayor Cooper said during his Thursday State of Metro address at the Metro City Center.

Once eyed for 1,600 pandemic-time hospital beds, that location is now a bustling vaccination site as public health restrictions approach a May 14 end.

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

Education: $81 million

The mayor’s plan increases the average teacher’s salary by $6,924 and brings educators with eight to 15 years’ experience a $10,880 increase.

“This pay increase is not just a celebration for Nashville’s teachers; it is a celebration for all of Nashville,” said Chasitie Goodman, an Antioch High School English teacher. “I think I can speak for all teachers when I say I was not imagining my paycheck when I began teaching. I was thinking about the future inventors and innovators that I would have a hand in helping.”

“But it is nice to know that some of the payback I will get will not only be in hardworking students and hugs - but in the amount on my paycheck, as well,” she added.

The mayor’s proposal - Nashville’s largest operating investment in education - fully funds the School Board’s request for the first time in years.

“Raising teacher salaries is the number one action we can take that will help strengthen our schools going forward – not only for attracting and retaining the best for our students, but for rewarding the hard work our amazing educators engage in every single day,” said Metro Councilmember Tom Cash.

Transportation: $30 million

A proposed $25.5 million will restore funding for WeGo bus service, which Metro last year subsidized using one-time, federal relief dollars.

“The service improvements WeGo will be able to start with this budget are very exciting,” said John Bull, a frequent WeGo rider.

“Later service hours in particular are absolutely essential to so many workers who have been hit really hard by the pandemic. The fact that they’ll be able to access more jobs and more available shifts will help raise Nashville up even faster,” he added.

Meanwhile, $3.5 million will operationalize a local Department of Transportation (DoT) – including a new traffic management center.

As Nashville works to address our re-emerging traffic challenges, having an adopted Transportation Plan and the framework for our Department of Transportation puts us in a good position to attract funding and top transportation leadership,” said Metro Councilmember Burkley Allen. “The budget should reflect our commitment to improving all modes of transportation and increasing pedestrian and vehicular safety.”

Affordable Housing: $3 million in operating budget to leverage a $30M+ plan

The mayor’s plan supports a tripling of city dollars for affordable housing.

The Mayor announced a plan to implement the Affordable Housing task force recommendations that will leverage multiple funding sources: the operating budget, capital spending plan, and pending federal American Rescue Plan funds.

New programs such as a Catalyst Housing fund and a payment in lieu of taxes program will also be brought forward for Council authorization in the coming months, to encourage private-sector participation, and Metro will build affordable housing on publicly owned property located on 24th Ave. N.

“Land is one of our most valuable – and finite – resources, and rising land costs have put severe pressure on housing affordability in Nashville,” said Kelsey Osemann, a member of the mayor’s Affordable Housing Task Force.

“Metro is seizing a great opportunity here to lead by example, working with the neighborhood to ensure this property is used to benefit the community through much-needed affordable housing,” she added.

Neighborhood funding: $8 million

The mayor proposed $3M for Metro parks and green spaces and called for twice-monthly residential recycling at a cost of $1M to move the city closer to its zero-emissions goals. Additional investments in Libraries, Arts Commission, Planning, Historical and Codes will further support livable neighborhoods in our community.

“Nashville’s park system offers unparalleled opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy educational, historic and recreational amenities like no other,” said Metro Councilmember Jeff Syracuse. “Ensuring green space is part of every local community within Davidson County, including where the new Donelson Library will be, enriches community pride and civic engagement.”