Metro Council approves budget, grants MNPS support staff raise

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Nashville Metro Council voted 31-3 overwhelmingly to pass the 2023 budget that will fund the Metro government during the next fiscal year, starting on July 1st.

Officials said the budget passed by Council includes funding for all key initiatives Mayor Cooper had previously outlined in his Agenda for Neighborhoods and Families in April. This includes pay raises for bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and paraprofessionals; significantly more resources to bolster core city services; 157 new first responders across Metro departments; and more funding to expand affordable housing.

“It’s been said that a budget shows a city’s values better than any words can. I’m grateful to the Metro Council for their hard work and diligence in passing a budget that reflects Nashville’s values and priorities and will help our city grow in a way that works for everyone,” said Mayor John Cooper.

Here are some of the critical provisions passed in this year’s budget which will make a meaningful impact on the lives of Nashvillians:

  • Record investment in Metro Nashville Public Schools for the second year in a row, up 9% for 2023 after a 9% increase last year as well, in the 2022 FY budget. These new investments are one year after making Nashville’s teachers the best paid in the state, which is how Metro creates the best possible circumstances to recruit and retain the best public school teachers in the country.
  • Paid family leave for all MNPS employees for the first time is a generational request Metro can finally fulfill.
  • Significant increase of resources and workforce at the Department of Transportation so we can better serve our neighborhoods – focusing on maintenance, safety, and engineering -- and analyzing traffic patterns to reduce traffic and congestion across Nashville.
  • More Homeless Impact Division staff, which we have increased 92% over our past two budgets.
  • Over $20 million annually to create affordable housing and ARP funds. Our rate of investment in affordable housing has increased fivefold since Mayor Cooper took office.
  • Bus Drivers will get a minimum annual pay increase of approx. $11,000 to almost $14,000.
  • MNPS Paraprofessionals will get a minimum annual pay increase of nearly $4,400 up to almost $8,700, and cafeteria workers will get a yearly minimum pay increase of over $3,700.
  • A living wage of $18 an hour for all Metro employees, and the Council has extended the same standard for MNPS employees – which means all Metro and MNPS full-time employees will be paid a minimum of $18/hour next year for the first time.
  • Adding more police officers to prioritize community safety in neighborhoods, including opening the 9th precinct in southeast Nashville once it is fully staffed and built.
  • Adding more first responders, including firefighters, EMS units, and 911 call dispatchers to decrease response times and help reach the national standard for firefighters per truck.
  • Adding more Parks employees to properly maintain the 178 parks and 15,000 acres of green space, including fully staffing community centers and expanding greenways access.
  • Increased investments for maintenance along our roads, bikeways, and alleyways – to sweep streets, clear brush, and keep trash out of storm drains and groundwater – including 12 new positions to remove trash and litter. As a result, in the last month alone, instances of litter reported by residents have decreased by half.
  • A 20% increase in waste service to increase the reliability of trash pickup and ensure Metro has the capacity and resources to quickly make up for any shortfalls in trash collection if they arise.
  • Adding the fifth crew to repair potholes – in driving lanes, crosswalks, and bikeways to decrease the time between when they are reported and when they are fixed to under 72 hours.
  • Making Metro Government more accessible for immigrants by hiring Spanish and Kurdish speakers at HubNashville – part of a broader language access initiative to provide better services at our 9-1-1 call center, State Trial Courts, the Office of Family Safety, and the Woodbine Health Clinic.
  • Investing in being a city that cares about its history and what it looks like by hiring a city architect to incorporate community feedback and quality design into significant projects and hiring a city archeologist to provide in-house assessments of historic sites, including those associated with Native Americans, the Civil War, and early African American neighborhoods.
  • Additional resources to improve service and hours at Nashville Public Libraries and the NAZA summer program
  • Hiring new staff across Codes, Planning, Water, Fire Marshal, and NDOT to improve the core functions of local government. This will help us alleviate the growth of the strain that can be put on the city and its residents and impact customer service.

“I’m grateful for the work by the Mayor and Metro Council to reduce the budget deficit caused by the state’s continued underfunding of Nashville’s students and the focus on ensuring MNPS support staff have a livable wage that will allow us to retain better and recruit employees who ensure we can provide services vital to a great public education,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

A topic many were anxious to hear about was the proposed $9 million for some MNPS support staff and Metro employees.

“Of course, I support any improvement for support staff,” said Xaviera Washington, MNPS support staff, before the vote was cast.

They said that Xaviera is talking about the additional $4 million in the Council’s proposed budget to bring MNPS support staff to a livable wage, about $18 an hour.

“Yes, I think it’s really important that we have that money in the budget, and yes, it should be more. I also wish the mayor’s office had actually brought in SEIU, the Union that represents most of these workers, early in the process, to talk about what was needed and what those what the stakeholders what the employees really needed and wanted,” said Ginny Welsch - Metro Councilwoman for District 16

But Washington said the proposed $4 million isn’t enough

“We asked for $9 million, and we only got $4 million,” said Washington. “People that are significantly underpaid, that would be beneficial to them, but for support employees like myself, we’re caught in the middle because we do not benefit from that,” she added.

News 4 asked Councilmember Welsch how they came up with the $4 million.

“The math after that meeting in our work sessions came back that $4 million would be able to avoid compression and still get the result we wanted but maybe not to the extent that we wanted. But it does bring people up to a living wage, which is first and foremost important, said Councilmember Welsch.

MNPS says the raises will start on July 1st and will be on their paychecks six weeks after. All employees will receive at least a 4% raise. However, each raise depends on the employees’ position and years of service.

Another Important group to the Council is Metro employees.

The Council’s proposed budget increases the cost of living adjustment for metro employees to 4.5%

“The Mayor and Metro are putting the kind of significant resources behind creating affordable housing that can make a meaningful difference to residents who are being priced out of their neighborhoods,” said Evan Holladay, founder, and CEO of Holladay Ventures. “There’s a lot of work left to be done, but this budget is a positive development toward creating a more affordable and livable Nashville.”

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