NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The newly sworn-in mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, received an extensive presentation Thursday on the city’s finances by the Tennessee Comptroller.
Councilmember-At-Large Bob Mendes, who now serves as the chair of the Council Budget & Finance Committee, also attended the presentation.
"The mayor and I were listening,” says Mendes. “We wanted to hear their description of what they thought the problem was and honestly what we heard was a lot of stuff Mayor Cooper and I already know."
Mendes says the presentation included long term trends for Nashville revenue, expenses and debt services. It was an in-depth picture of the problems the Comptroller warned Nashville about in August of this year.
"For too long we've been spending faster than we've been bringing in money -as hard as that is to believe- and to make up for it, we've been using up savings and selling off assets and the message from the Comptroller is there's a problem," says Mendes.
Metro’s current budget includes an expected $41.5 million for the sale of two assets – deals which are pending. They include the privatization of Nashville’s parking and the sale of the Metro District Energy System. The plan to privatize parking will likely not go through, which leaves a gaping $34 million hole in Metro’s budget.
In September, the city’s outgoing finance director responded to the state’s concern for Nashville’s budget problem by saying the city would plan accordingly if either of the plans failed.
On Monday, Mayor Cooper announced he was replacing the outgoing Finance Director with Kevin Crumbo a noted finance expert and philanthropic leader.
"When a family gets used to living a lifestyle off credit card debt, it's hard to get back to living within your finances,” says Mendes. “It's doable, but we're going to have to have a new culture of leadership accepting how to plan for success instead of being afraid of facts and just being addicted to overspending.”
Mayor Cooper has asked the state Comptroller to give this same presentation to the newly sworn-in council in November as council would need to approve a new cash management policy.
"[The mayor] needs a few weeks to come up with a plan and we on the council will be able to support it," says Mendes. "I am optimistic.”