Budget plan places priority on education, transportation and neighborhoods

Mayor John Cooper delivering his 2021 State of Metro Address.

After sharing his vision for the city during his 2021 State of Metro Address, Mayor John Cooper has presented a budget plan for achieving his goals.

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,” Cooper said. “We’ve weathered the storm, and we have a new opportunity to rise together.”

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.”

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

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.”

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

The mayor’s plan also supports tripling 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.

The mayor is also proposing $3 million 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 Councilman 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.”

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