Metro General Government

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The Metro General Government (or “Metro”) chapter of SEIU Local 205 is one of the most diverse. It is made up of a combination of blue-collar and white-collar workers who work across dozens of city departments doing skilled and unskilled labor that keeps Tennessee’s capital city running for local residents and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Music City every day.

And while the union members in the Metro chapter may come from different backgrounds, have different skills, and work in different kinds of work settings, one thing that SEIU members have learned is how to work together towards common goals: protecting workers’ rights, benefits, improving pay, dignity and respect on the job, and a commitment to excellence and quality public services.

Metro General Government Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) 

The Metro Budget: A Very Public Debate

Last April, citizens of Nashville learned that amidst an economic boom, there was somehow a revenue shortfall. Last June it became clear the shortfall was caused by a 2017 decision to set the property tax rate at the lowest point in the history of Metro government. 19 Metro Council members voted to correct that mistake in last year’s budget, but failed to win the day.

Over the past 15 months, there have been dozens of news stories, council meetings, and community meetings related to the city’s budget, revenue, and funding. Metro employees, teachers, police officers, firefighters and bus operators have been working to inform the public of the resources needed to keep up with the city’s growth. We look forward to continuing this very healthy, and very public, debate. 

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4-17-18 MNPS promises changes after I-Team investigation exposes shortage of paraprofessionals
https://www.wsmv.com/news/mnps-promises-changes-after-i-team-investigation-exposes-shortage-of/article_374e6221-e410-570a-a6ee-99feaa34c13a.html

4-17-18 Nashville property tax shortfall: Large commercial owners took home 80% of reduction
https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2018/04/17/nashville-property-tax-shortfall-large-commercial-owners-took-home-80-reduction/516303002/

4-18-18 Questioned By The Mayor, Metro Schools Defends Budget Cuts And Explains Shortfall
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/questioned-mayor-metro-schools-defends-budget-cuts-and-explains-shortfall#stream/0

4-8-18 Metro’s 911 operators face high turnover and growing vacancies
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metros-911-operators-face-high-turnover-and-growing-vacancies

5-1-18 Briley budget falls $40M short of Nashville schools’ funding request
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/05/01/briley-budget-falls-40-m-short-nashville-schools-funding-request/569757002/

5-2-18 Mayor Briley’s proposed budget eliminates cost-of-living pay increases
https://www.wkrn.com/top-news/mayor-brileys-proposed-budget-eliminates-cost-of-living-pay-increases/1156369703

5-8-18 Schools will be spared cuts as MNPS leaders address $17M budget hole
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2018/05/08/nashville-schools-budget-cuts-funding-mnps/589593002/

5-9-18 Budget shortfall leaves Nashville teachers without raises
https://www.wsmv.com/news/budget-shortfall-leaves-nashville-teachers-without-raises/article_7e3bda59-c4d1-5836-a8db-efd59e5c9186.html

5-9-18 Nashville’s New Wall Street Crowd to Pocket 87% Savings on Property Taxes
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-09/nashville-s-wall-street-crowd-to-score-87-savings-on-home-taxes

5-14-18 Amid budget shortfall, are Nashville’s financial incentives still worth the cost?
https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2018/05/14/nashville-budget-shortfall-business-incentives-start-raise-questions/595473002/

5-18-18 How to calculate Nashville property tax, with or without proposed 50-cent increase
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2018/05/18/tennessee-property-tax-nashville-davidson-county-calculator/623340002/

5-18-18 50-Cent Property Tax Increase Proposed By Metro Councilmembers
https://patch.com/tennessee/nashville/50-cent-property-tax-increase-proposed-metro-councilmembers

5-22-18 Nashville schools board calls on parents and teachers to lobby Metro Council for more funds
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2018/05/22/nashville-schools-budget-parents-lobby-metro-council/631999002/

5-23-18 Metro Council members express hope they can find money for public schools teacher raises
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2018/05/23/metro-council-members-express-hope-they-can-find-money-nashville-public-schools-teacher-raises/636979002/

5-24-18 Amid Talks Of School Budget Cuts, Paraprofessionals Contemplate The Future
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/amid-talks-of-school-budget-cuts-paraprofessionals-contemplate-the-future

6-1-18 ‘The perception is Metro left money on the table’
https://www.tnledger.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=107064

6-5-18 Homes in Wealthy Neighborhoods Received Property Tax Decrease
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/on-the-rise/homes-in-wealthy-neighborhoods-received-property-tax-decrease

6-6-18 Groups Beg Metro Council To Raise Taxes To Fund Raises For Teachers And City Employees
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/groups-beg-metro-council-raise-taxes-fund-raises-teachers-and-city-employees#stream/0

6-6-18 Teachers, unions push property tax hike as Nashvillians sound off on budget woes
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/06/06/nashville-teachers-unions-push-property-tax-hike-they-sound-off-budget-woes/671278002/

6-12-18 Does Metro Need More Money?
https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/features/article/21008851/does-metro-need-more-money

6-13-18 Growing Debt Blamed For Budget Shortfall
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/growing-debt-blamed-for-budget-shortfall

6-14-18 Nashville budget proposal: $2 million in cuts — but not enough for fully-funded schools, pay hikes
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/06/14/metro-nashville-budget-cuts-mnps-funding/703783002/

6-19-18 Winners & losers: What’s at stake in Metro’s budget debate
https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2018/06/19/winners-losers-whats-at-stake-in-metros-budget.html

6-19-18 Here’s how much Nashville tax revenue goes to developers instead of schools
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/06/19/nashville-schools-budget-shortfall-how-much-tax-revenue-lost-development-incentives/714793002/

6-20-19 Nashville Council Rejects Property Tax Hike, Finalizing Budget That Pinches Schools And City Staff
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-council-rejects-property-tax-hike-finalizing-budget-pinches-schools-and-city-staff#stream/0

6-21-18 Nashville Already Anticipating An Even Tougher City Budget Next Year
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-already-anticipating-even-tougher-city-budget-next-year#stream/0

6-21-18 Frustrated With Mayor’s Power Over Budget, Metro Council To Hire Its Own Finance Guru
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/frustrated-mayors-power-over-budget-metro-council-hire-its-own-finance-guru#stream/0

6-26-18 Nashville’s Metro Council Reeling with Money Woes
https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2018/jul/26/nashvilles-metro-council-reeling-with-money-woes/

7-1-18 Musing City: What kind of place does Nashville want to be?
https://www.governing.com/topics/urban/gov-nashville.html

7-11-18 After Tumult, Nashville Mayor Wants Focus On ‘Fundamentals’ Of Education, Safety, Prosperity
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/after-tumult-nashville-mayor-wants-focus-fundamentals-education-safety-prosperity#stream/0

7-16-18 If Nashville has more taxpayers than ever before, why is it short on money?
https://fox17.com/news/local/if-nashville-has-more-taxpayers-than-ever-before-why-is-it-short-on-money

7-25-18 Metro departments asked to cut budgets amid shortfall
https://fox17.com/news/local/metro-departments-asked-to-cut-budgets-amid-shortfall

8-20-18 Budget Shortfall Forces ‘Change of Direction’ For Metro Fire Department
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/budget-shortfall-forces-change-of-direction-for-metro-fire-department

8-24-18 Report Sheds More Light On Metro Schools’ Shortfall, Spending Trends
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/report-sheds-more-light-metro-schools-shortfall-spendinhttps://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/metro-government/article/21022177/mayor-appoints-five-to-new-budget-study-groupg-trends#stream/0

8-30-18 Budget Shortfall Impacts Sheriff, Police Departments
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/budget-shortfall-impacts-sheriff-police-departments

9-13-18 Mayor appoints five to new budget study group
https://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/metro-government/article/21022177/mayor-appoints-five-to-new-budget-study-group

9-21-18 ‘No crisis,’ Mayor Briley says of Nashville’s finances, affordable housing. Others push back
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/09/21/nashville-mayor-david-briley-says-no-crisis-city-finances-housing/1356248002/

11-28-18 Council members tie Amazon incentives to raises
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/some-metro-council-members-call-for-metro-employee-pay-raise

11-29-18 Why Nashville seems broke even as the city grows
https://fox17.com/news/local/why-nashville-seems-broke-even-as-the-city-grows

11-29-18 Metro employees feel ‘left behind’ after no pay raise
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/metro-employees-feel-left-behind-after-no-pay-raise

11-29-18 Nashville schools needs to sell property or risk cuts. Seven sites that could help close the budget gap.
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2018/11/29/nashville-schools-capital-list-and-cuts-fund-schools/2136609002/

12-4-18 Nashville council votes to prohibit selling Metro land for budget fixes
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/12/04/nashville-council-votes-prohibit-selling-metro-land-budget-fixes/2207303002/

12-28-18 Briley ‘Committed’ to Avoiding Tax Hike in 2019, Planning Listening Tour
https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21038856/briley-committed-to-avoiding-tax-hike-in-2019-planning-listening-tour

1-15-19 News4 analyzes Nashville’s finances, debt
https://www.wsmv.com/news/news-analyzes-nashville-s-finances-debt/article_aded1050-18c9-11e9-9e73-d7dd3f3e5f15.html

1-16-19 Project Nashville: Sounding the alarm on fire station safety
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-sounding-the-alarm-on-fire-station-safety

2-7-19 Project Nashville: Brain damaged firefighter wants Metro to hire more employees
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-brain-damaged-firefighter-wants-metro-to-hire-more-employees

2-14-19 Project Nashville: Do Metro Government budget decisions impact your insurance premiums?
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-do-metro-government-budget-decisions-impact-your-insurance-premiums

2-19-19 Metro Police officers leaving the department due to low morale
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/metro-police-officers-leaving-the-department-due-to-low-morale

2-26-19 Project Nashville: Funding Firefighters
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-funding-firefighters

3-5-19 Nashville teachers, employees would get 3 percent pay raise in proposed 2019-2020 budget. Some say it’s not enough.
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/03/05/mnps-pay-raise-2019-2020-budget/3066022002/

3-6-19 Briley turns to Music City Center for more help ahead of another tight budget
https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2019/03/06/briley-turns-to-music-city-center-for-more-help.html

3-14-19 Project Nashville: Teacher’s aide takes stand after Metro government’s broken promises
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-broken-promises

4-11-19 Project Nashville: Why are teachers without books in the ‘IT city’?
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-why-are-teachers-without-books-in-the-it-city

4-17-19 Teachers rally for full funding of Metro Schools at budget meeting
https://fox17.com/news/local/metro-schools-leaders-present-budget-to-mayor-briley

4-25-19 Nashville to get $300M in deal with private company to take over on-street parking
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/04/25/nashville-street-parking-laz-private-contract/3562335002/

4-11-19 Here’s how parking in Nashville will change if the Mayor’s plan to privatize it passes
https://www.wsmv.com/news/here-s-how-parking-in-nashville-will-change-if-the/article_164eb68a-5cb8-11e9-b5ab-5709b0b7e9cc.html

5-2-19 More than 350 teachers across Metro Nashville school district request substitutes Friday
https://fox17.com/news/local/more-than-350-teachers-across-metro-nashville-school-district-request-substitutes-friday

5-3-19 Metro’s Budget Sends Mixed Message: Some Pay Raises, But Cuts Elsewhere
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/metro-s-budget-sends-mixed-message-some-pay-raises-cuts-elsewhere

5-3-19 More than 1,000 teachers, staff don’t show up to Metro Schools on Friday
https://fox17.com/news/local/parents-say-mcgavock-high-has-turned-into-organized-recess-with-120-teacher-absences

5-5-19 Nearly 200 MNPS teachers, staff out Monday after sickout last week
https://fox17.com/news/local/teacher-sick-out-to-continue-monday-during-teacher-appreciation-week

5-15-19 Metro Council member believes lack in tax increase are behind budget problems
https://www.wkrn.com/news/local-news/metro-council-member-believes-lack-in-tax-increase-are-behind-budget-problems/2005247013

5-15-19 Nashville May Cut Bus Service And Raise Fares Because Of Budget Shortfall
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-may-cut-bus-service-and-raise-fares-because-budget-shortfall#stream/0

5-16-19 School board asks Metro to approve budget to fund 10% teacher raise
https://www.newschannel5.com/news/school-board-asks-metro-to-approve-budget-to-fund-10-teacher-raise

5-16-19 Teachers march for payraise, school board asks for $76 million at city budget hearing
https://www.wkrn.com/news/teachers-march-for-payraise-school-board-asks-for-76-million-at-city-budget-hearing/2007667429

5-16-19 Nashville teachers, protesters at City Hall to demand higher pay
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/16/nashville-teachers-absent-again-part-mnps-sick-out/3691484002/

5-22-19 Here Are The Two Dozen Nashville Bus Routes Facing Cuts Or Elimination
https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/here-are-two-dozen-nashville-bus-routes-facing-cuts-or-elimination#stream/0

5-29-19 Council will again consider property tax increase
https://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/metro-government/article/21070700/council-will-again-consider-property-tax-increase

5-31-19 Mayor David Briley hits ‘pause button’ on Nashville private parking deal
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2019/05/31/nashville-mayor-david-briley-withdraws-public-parking-proposal/1297931001/

6-7-19 Controversial parking deal remains key piece of upcoming budget, despite Briley’s ‘pause’
https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2019/06/07/controversial-parking-deal-remains-key-piece-of.html

6-11-19 Council member Steve Glover proposes 3.6% property tax hike for increased Metro employee raises
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/06/11/nashville-budget-council-member-propose-3-6-percent-property-tax-hike/1418274001/

6-12-19 Project Nashville: Do Metro education dollars make it to the classroom?
https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/project-nashville-do-metro-education-dollars-make-it-to-the-classroom

6-14-19 Nashville Mayor David Briley criticizes tax increase proposals as a third budget plan is filed
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/06/14/nashville-mayor-david-briley-criticizes-tax-increase-proposals-third-budget-plan-filed/1461283001/

6-16-19 A cruel paradox: Despite thriving economy, Nashville struggles to fund schools, city services
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/06/16/nashville-struggles-fund-schools-services-despite-thriving-economy/1263615001/

 

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Nashville: A Boomtown in Bu$t

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Nashville’s budget is broken because we have the lowest property tax rate in the history of Davidson County at a time when the demand on public services couldn’t be higher. In 2017, city leaders irresponsibly cut the property tax rate. We need to restore the tax rate to an appropriate level.

We got a tax cut in 2017? Why didn’t I notice? How does all this work?

Every four years, the Assessor of Property calculates the value of every property in Nashville. State law says that following those calculations, the property tax rate must be changed to be “revenue neutral” so the city can’t make money from the process of appraising the property values. At the last assessment, the value of property went up because Nashville is booming. Therefore, the percentage tax on property – the tax rate — was lowered by $1.36 per $100 of assessed value, a 30% decrease in the rate.

The job of the mayor and council is to decide what property tax rate generates enough revenue to fund the city. In both 2009 and 2017, Mayor Dean and then Mayor Barry accepted the tax rate that kept revenues neutral without debating the impact on the city budget. Both times, the Metro Council agreed. Our elected officials collectively refused to make the politically difficult decisions we need them to make as leaders of our city. They made an irresponsible choice to lower the rate, which cost our city vital revenues and disproportionately benefited developers and commercial properties. This broke the budget. In 2010, the Dean administration restructured the city debt, pushing payments into the future. Much of our budget is paying for that debt now instead of our schools and other public institutions.

Another way to think about this is that Mayor Barry proposed a $394 million/year tax cut, and the Council accepted. Technically we did not “lose” revenues because the appraisal has to be revenue neutral, but we did lose out on $1.5 billion in potential revenue over 4 years.

Even though the rate dropped, people in gentrifying areas saw tax increases. In already-affluent areas (where property values are stable), taxes were cut. Taxes also went down dramatically for many big commercial properties and developers.

What About Appeals?

Appeals always happen and when property values go up as much as they did in 2017. The Barry administration’s decision to accept a revenue neutral rate became even more of a catastrophic error because it didn’t account for the appeals that were sure to come.

What about Tax Incentives (“TIF”), the Soccer Stadium and Amazon?

First, the Soccer Stadium and Amazon are future costs that have no impact whatsoever on the current budget, so they do not explain the problem. Second, if you total up all of the current Amazon-like incentives, they don’t even amount to half of the cost of a 1% raise for teachers and staff, let alone all Metro employees.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) deals from the past take $30 million from the budget. Even though that is a great deal of money, TIF is not the core problem. Existing TIF deals can’t be undone, and eliminating them wouldn’t solve the problem anyway. The budget shortfall is over $100 million when you factor in the one-time asset sales, and TIF deals are 30-year contracts we can’t change. Metro Council has stopped new TIF deals for now and is re-evaluating how they can be used, so the city is making progress on preventing future problems. But even if we could undo every TIF deal (and we can’t, by the way), we would still need to find another $75 million every year.

Didn’t Metro Council try to raise the rate last year? How much would it cost me if that had passed?

If you own a home worth $150,000, it would have cost you about $187/year. If your home is worth $300,000, you would pay an additional $375/year. That’s about $1/day. A commercial property like Opry Mills would pay $600,000 more per year. This is what it will take to fund our schools. This tax is paid by homeowners and commercial property owners only.

How will this help fix the city budget?

Each penny of property tax rate generates about $3 million in revenues. So last year’s $.50 proposed increase would have given us an additional $150,000,000. The Board of Education’s current budget is asking for $76,000,000.

Is there waste at MNPS that can be cut in order to fund teacher raises?

MNPS is a chronically underfunded school system. While there may be disagreements about school budget priorities, you can’t cut an underfunded system into being fully funded. Our schools need more money, not less.

What about the state’s responsibility for funding the schools?

The state funding formula (called BEP) is based on many factors, including on potential property tax revenue from local districts, not actual revenue. So, because Nashville’s property values are high, the state formula calculates the potential revenue the city would have to fund the schools and adds in the rest. The problem is that our tax rate is so low, the state greatly overestimates the city’s contribution. A low tax rate ends up causing underfunding at both the local and state levels.

What can I do to help?

Email or call your Metro Council representative and ask them to support a property tax adjustment that gives our schools and other public institutions the funds they need to truly serve our city.

CLICK HERE to contact your Metro Council representative >>>

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Sources:

http://www.padctn.org/services/tax-rates-and-calculator/

https://fox17.com/news/project-nashville/how-did-we-get-here-nashvilles-budget-shortfall-during-historic-growth

http://www.mendesfornashville.com/the-myth-that-belt-tightening-could-fix-the-budget/

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2018/05/18/tennessee-property-tax-nashville-davidson-county-calculator/623340002/

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/16/nashville-teachers-absent-again-part-mnps-sick-out/3691484002/

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Thanks to Red4Ed for content.

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SEIU Statement on Mayor Briley’s “State of Metro” Address

SEIU Local 205 issued the following statement in response to Mayor David Briley’s “State of Metro” address and his proposed budget for Metro Government in Nashville for 2019-2020:

Mayor Briley’s State of Metro address outlined a budget that is an improvement from last year. We are thankful the Mayor has prioritized fulfilling the commitment of a cost-of-living adjustment for Metro employees and for extending that to Metro Schools employees. We are also encouraged that Mayor Briley is supporting a $15/hour minimum wage for Metro employees, something our union fights to achieve for all workers.

Despite these hopeful signs, there are a lot of details about this budget and the city’s revenue projections which are still unknown. We do know that our public schools will remain underfunded, as Mayor Briley acknowledged in his remarks today. The MNPS School Board requested much more than what Mayor Briley is proposing and our teachers, paraprofessionals, and other school support staff – many of whom work two or three jobs just to get by – literally can’t afford to wait for the “multi-year, long-term approach” that Mayor Briley recommended. We hope the Metro Council will fully fund the school board’s budget request.

We share many of the goals Mayor Briley laid out in his State of Metro address, but we do not believe his vision for Nashville can be accomplished without addressing the core revenue issue that our city faces. If the mayor is correct and Nashville continues to grow, so will the demand on our schools and public services. Metro will struggle to meet these challenges until we directly confront the structural revenue problem created by Mayor Barry and the Metro Council adopting the lowest property tax rate in the history of Metro Government. That decision in 2017 was effectively a large tax cut that disproportionately benefited developers and commercial property owners and is at the root of all of Nashville’s budget challenges.

Brad Rayson
President, SEIU Local 205

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SEIU Ramps Up Pressure About TIF & Corporate Welfare in Nashville!

Coming on the heels of a national article by In These Times magazine about Amazon which Local 205 participated in, union officials delivered a statement to the Metro Council’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Study Committee on March 6. The union’s statement is on YouTube and was read by SEIU’s political director Jason Freeman – here it is in its entirety:

When it comes to Tax Increment Financing in Davidson County moving forward, we have a few things you should consider.

First, TIF was originally conceived as a way to entice development in ‘blighted areas.’ The idea was to use the incentive to build parks/green space, sidewalks or other public goods that would make an area more desirable for developers. In Nashville, we generally seem to use TIF to subsidize construction loans. The city should focus on how to deliver public goods with TIF, not build a few extra floors on a high-rise that is already being built.

Second, in Nashville TIF has been used on a project-by-project basis, meaning the increment only comes from the single property. There was an effort to change this process to a large district which freezes property tax revenue from say a 30 square mile area for 30 years. This also creates a silo of funding that feels a bit like an end run around the capital improvement budget for projects only in that area. 

That becomes especially concerning when talking about replicating many of those districts around the city. The project-by-project model puts less of our future revenue at risk and gives the Council better oversight. TIF projects should, whenever possible, require approval by the council. Council should not give away it’s oversight on 30 years of property tax revenue for large sections of the city under any circumstance.

Third, the city of Nashville has a chronically underfunded school system whose scarce resources have been strained by Tax Increment Financing. Metro Schools is required to receive 40% of all the property tax revenue that comes into the city and until our investment in education matches our investment in tourism, we should not promise away one dollar of future revenue that is allocated for schools. If we continue to use TIF, it should only apply to the remaining increment after the schools get their funds.

Finally, at the current moment, the property tax revenues are at an arbitrarily low amount. This is a result of Council adopting the lowest property tax rate in the history of consolidated government. Promising away future property tax revenue from the current baseline would be irresponsible. The city is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, bringing into the question the need for these types of incentives in the first place, but our infrastructure is not growing. Needed investments in our city are not being made and we would argue that the focus of this council should be on fixing the current revenue shortage before promising any future revenues away. There is currently a voluntary freeze on Tax Increment Financing agreements until this committee makes its recommendations. This freeze should continue, and no Tax Increment Financing agreement should be considered until the council and the mayor’s office have restored the property tax rate to a normal level.

Thank you for your work and for taking input from the public. 

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SEIU Kicks Off Series of “Roundtable Conversations” About Growth & Budget in Nashville!

MetroBudget2019_GreenHills-With nearly a hundred people moving to “It City” every day, how can Nashville experience such rapid growth and yet still struggle with a revenue shortfall?

This was the topic of discussion at a community meeting held at J.T. Moore Middle School in Green Hills. Hosted by SEIU Local 205, the roundtable discussion featured perspectives from Metro Council members, labor leaders, and city employees who are dealing with the direct impact of an exploding city population using limited resources.

The discussion began with some sobering statistics. In the last decade, the city’s population has increased by over 17%. This population growth brings with it a host of issues that require local government services and people to provide them and yet, Metro departments have lagged far behind the city’s growth curve. Some city departments like Public Works have essentially the same number of employees as they did in 2008.

Despite Nashville’s population explosion, a development boom, an overall increase in property values, and job growth, Nashville ended up with a revenue shortfall last year which resulted in Metro Schools receiving about $37 million dollars less than they asked for. Metro Government employees, who rely on cost-of-living raises to keep up, watched as their COLA raise was taken away even though the council had voted to approve it the previous year.

Several Metro employees participated in the roundtable discussion and shared their perspectives on how growth and budget shortfalls are impacting their work and their families. Alisa Franklin, a call taker at the Department of Emergency Communications, described a high-stress environment that results in burnout and high turnover. “Some of our call takers are working 12 to 16 hour days to make sure the city is served properly,” Franklin said. “We’ve got people who do that on a daily basis because we are dedicated.” She also described the department’s struggle with retaining good people since their starting salary is only $15.60 in one the most expensive urban markets in the state. “It’s hard for us to keep people here because they can go to work somewhere else for the same money doing easier work and not have all the stress.”

Panelist Chris Gill is a paraprofessional working in Metro Nashville Public Schools and assists children with developmental disabilities. Gill, a former U.S. Army captain, questioned how he and his co-workers – many of whom have college educations – are able to live in Davidson County with a salary that forces many of them to have second jobs. “I love my job, but I shouldn’t have to take a second job to keep my first job,” Gill said. “Everyone says ‘we appreciate your service’, but if you really appreciate our service, pay us what we’re worth.”

Tyrone Jolley works for Metro Water Services in the Development Services division, which is ground zero for the development boom in Music City. His office deals with project engineering, planning, permits, and inspections. “On any day of the week, you can come down to our office at 7:30 am and see a line of people waiting to get in,” Jolley said. “We used to have some slow periods but we haven’t seen any of that in the past four years. It is non-stop.” Jolley, who’s worked for Metro Water for over 20 years, received no raise in 2018.

Watch the comments from SEIU members here

Mark Young, local president of the International Association of Firefighters and James Smallwood, local president of the Fraternal Order of Police joined in the discussion with equally powerful statistics and stories about how a lack of funding is impacting public safety in Nashville. Whether it’s not having enough fire stations or enough police officers on the street, the failure to adjust the property tax rate as well as ongoing tax incentives to large corporations like Amazon, HCA, and others are literally putting Nashvillians at risk. A similar sentiment came from Erick Huth, president of Metro Nashville Education Association, who talked about the impact funding is having on public education in Nashville.

Councilmembers Russ Pulley, Angie Henderson, and Burkley Allen, who represent districts across West Nashville, participated in the discussion as well. When last year’s budget was being voted on, both Pulley and Henderson voted against an amended budget ordinance which would have adjusted the property tax and fully-funded Metro Schools along with city employees’ cost-of-living raises. Councilwoman Allen voted for the amended budget ordinance but ultimately it failed to pass by one vote. During an open q&a session, several attendees expressed frustration with city officials for playing politics over budget items. “Thank you for the clarification that getting elected is more important than doing the job you were elected to do,” said Lilldeus Russell, a city employee and mother who also offered a suggestion to the council members. “If we stop giving away our city to businesses which don’t need [tax incentives] and actually take care of the people who voted you into office, we wouldn’t be in this place.”

SEIU Local 205 plans to host several more roundtables on growth and the city budget across Davidson County over the next few months. For more information on future events, contact the union at 615-227-5070.

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SEIU & Allies to Metro Council: “Keep Your Promises & Pay Your Bills” to City Employees!

City employees and allies deliver a "past due invoice" for unpaid raises to the Metro Council.

City employees and allies deliver a “past due invoice” for unpaid raises to the Metro Council.

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), presented the Metro Council with an “invoice” of $38 million, which the public sector unions say would make city employees whole after the Council reneged on a pay plan which included cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in 2018 and 2019.

The General Government employee pay plan, which was developed after two years of study, was approved by the Metro Civil Service Commission and passed the Council by a vote of 34-1 in June, 2017. But last May, the mayor’s budget did not include the cost of living raises that were included in that pay plan, forcing the Council to write new ordinances that undid their previous vote on the pay plan.

Check out the complete video of the event.

The following remarks were made during the public comment period by Richard Tippit, a Metro employee who helped present the invoice to Metro Council members:

Members of Metro Council,

We’re here tonight to deliver you an invoice for services performed by the employees of Nashville Metro Government. In July of 2017, this Council passed a three-year pay plan that included annual cost of living adjustments. This pay plan was largely seen as attempting to make up for sacrifices made by Metro employees throughout the Great Recession.

Last year, because of a self-inflicted funding problem, this Council decided it wasn’t going to pay all of its bills. You paid every other bill – you even took on new bills – but you forgot to pay one of the most important. The men and women who keep the parks clean, keep our water running, keep the libraries open, repair our roads, pick-up our trash, answer 911 calls, put out the fires and keep our communities safe are owed a 3% cost of living adjustment for last year and a 3% adjustment for this year.

The total balance due is approximately $38 million in total, $18 million of that is past due. As you begin to discuss this year’s budget, you should know this bill remains unpaid, and your budgeting should start there.  Thank you.

Here’s a news report that aired on NewsChannel 5 featuring SEIU president Brad Rayson. Nashville Public Radio ran a brief report this morning as well.

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SEIU Member Named “Activist of the Year” by The Nashville Scene!

Odessa Kelly

Odessa Kelly at SEIU’s “Activist Day 2018”

Odessa Kelly, a member of SEIU Local 205 and an employee of Metro Parks and Recreation, was named “Activist of the Year” by Nashville Scene magazine.

By day, Odessa works as a recreation manager at Napier Recreation Center, which is located in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods. There, she supports and inspires kids every day by helping them with their homework and helping them acquire the skills and confidence they will need to thrive after they leave school.

When she’s not on the clock, Odessa has taken a lead role as a co-chair of Stand Up Nashville—a community non-profit which has, among other things helped draft the “Do Better Bill”. The legislation requires that before the Metro Council votes to give tax incentives to a company, the developers must release details about the jobs they claim will be created, including how many, what kind, whom they’ll hire, and what they’ll pay. This is landmark legislation for Nashville and for Tennessee.

Odessa was also one of the key players involved with the community benefits agreement (“CBA”) for the upcoming Major League Soccer stadium coming to Nashville. The CBA, which is a legally-binding agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings, requires the soccer group to provide affordable housing on the privately developed land and it sets a minimum wage of $15.50/hour for both construction workers and the employees who will eventually be hired by the soccer arena and its surrounding businesses.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, Odessa is also the co-chair of the economic equity branch of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope (“NOAH”). She was part of the team which helped push through Nashville’s Construction Readiness Partnership, an initiative to ensure that Nashvillians have the skills and access necessary should they want to be employed as part of the city’s construction boom.

Congratulations to Odessa on receiving this incredible award!

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Local 205 Vice-President Addresses Lawmakers @ First Metro Council “Public Comment” Session!

MetroCouncil_PublicComment-In the wake of a budget shortfall in Nashville and a bitter campaign by the city’s unions and community groups to get an amended budget passed, the Council began a new initiative – a “public comment” session – which permits members of the public to come before the government and speak about anything they want for two minutes.

It’s a new idea for the Metro Council, and one that SEIU took immediate advantage of. During the first night of “public comment”, Local 205’s executive vice-president, James Bradley, gave some prepared comments to the council. They touched on how he and other city employees felt about being betrayed by council members who had only a year earlier promised to fully fund a new pay plan. He also poked fun at how many council members refused to vote for a property tax adjustment (something that is a normal course of government operations in Metro) because there “wasn’t enough public input” by rattling off a list of questions that SEIU would like to have the council get input from us on over the next year while they run for re-election.

Here’s the full text of James’ comments (though he wasn’t able to complete them because time ran out):

“Good evening, members of the council. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address you this evening. My name is James Bradley and I serve as the executive vice-president of SEIU Local 205. My organization represents the men and women who work for so many of our public agencies including General Government departments, the Hospital Authority, Metro Action Commission, and we represent the support employees in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

First of all, on behalf of the thousands of city employees SEIU represents, I want to thank the 19 members of the council who voted in favor of Councilman Mendes’ budget two weeks ago. We appreciate your integrity and courage and we will not forget your support for us.

Having said that, we will also not forget the 20 council members who voted against us.

You are the people I would like to direct my public comments to this evening.

Two weeks ago when you voted on the budget, we heard your speeches about how there wasn’t enough “public input” on correcting the property tax rate. Every member of this council knows full well that correcting the tax rate has never had “public input” but if we have to have more “public input” on something that you all know is necessary for the city to do, let’s start with a couple of questions to get that ball rolling:

First, how do we explain to city employees who already took cuts to their pay and raises for four years that they have to do it again while we’re in a boom? I was one of the people whose taxes went up and then didn’t get a cost of living raise. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but when do these private developers start paying theirs?

Second, how do we explain that we couldn’t find the political will to fully fund our schools but we can find it to keep giving more TIF and PILOT deals to developers and corporations? Or for a water park at Opryland that only Opryland guests can use?

How do you justify asking Metro department heads to begin preparing budget reductions for next year when you are literally getting ready to vote tonight on another tax increment financing deal?

There’s a whole host of other questions too. Like where is the accountability on these TIF and PILOT deals? Which Metro department or office is tracking whether these companies are creating all the jobs they say they are? Is privatization saving us money or costing us more while quality goes down?

Hopefully, addressing these questions over the next year while many of you are campaigning will help educate and enlighten our teachers, firefighters, police officers, bus drivers, and General Government employees who live and vote in Davidson County.

We will be watching and trust me… we will be giving you and your political opponents our “public input” in 2019. I appreciate your time and again… thanks to those of you who voted for what was right, not for what was easy.”

Who Voted FOR Us on the Mendes budget?

Bob Mendes
Sharon Hurt
Erica Gilmore
Decosta Hastings
Brenda Haywood
Brett Withers
Anthony Davis
Bill Pridemore
Doug Pardue
Colby Sledge
Burkley Allen
Ed Kindall
Mina Johnson
Kathleen Murphy
Karen Johnson
Jason Potts
Fabian Bedne
Jacobia Dowell
Antoinette Lee
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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly with the Metro Budget

MetroGovt-sealThis has been one of the most contentious budget seasons in years due to a revenue shortfall, political upheaval in the mayor’s office, and chickens coming home to roost on bad economic policies made by short-sighted politicians over the last decade. SEIU has led the way in fighting for public employees as our members have reached out to their council members by email, phone, and in person. Here’s the good news and the bad news about what happened this year and a look at what lies ahead:

THE GOOD: New Raises Go Through + Stability In Employee Benefits

Several improvements did happen for Nashville’s public employees as a result of SEIU members’ hard work and the support of our allies, including —

  1. Metro employees who are eligible for step raises will still get them.
  2. In the schools, paraprofessionals will receive an upgrade/pay increase.
  3. Thanks to our allies on the benefit board, there is no increase in insurance costs to employees this year.
  4. Employees at Nashville General Hospital will receive a raise.
  5. Despite efforts from Councilman Glover to get rid of the paid family leave benefit, this remains intact.

THE BAD: The Mendes Budget Fails

As you know, Mayor Briley’s budget broke the existing pay plan and did not include the promised cost of living adjustments for this year or next year. It forced MNPS to cut $17 million from this year’s school budget and kept MNPS employees from getting any raise at all. Mayor Briley blamed the budget problems on an unexpected revenue shortfall. The shortfall was caused by Mayor Barry’s administration allowing the property tax rate to drop last year to the lowest rate in the history of Metro government.

For the past month, members of Local 205 have worked extremely hard to pass a substitute budget through the Metro Council that would honor the commitments made last year, and fully fund the MNPS budget. Councilman Bob Mendes proposed a budget that would have fixed the revenue shortfall by restoring the property tax rate to a historically normal level.

We fought hard and came within two votes of saving the cost of living increases and getting MNPS the money needed to fund employee raises.  In the end, 19 Members of the Metro Council stood with us, speaking loudly and clearly that the commitments they made should have been honored.

Below you can see how every member of Metro Council voted. We urge you to thank the members who stood with us:

YES:  Sharon Hurt, Brenda Haywood, Brett Withers, Bill Pridemore, Burkley Allen, Ed Kindall, Fabian Bedne, Erica Gilmore, Anthony Davis, Doug Pardue, Mina Johnson, Karen Johnson, Jacobia Dowell, Colby Sledge, Bob Mendes, DeCosta Hastings, Kathleen Murphy, Jason Potts, Antoinette Lee.

NO:  John Cooper, Steve Glover, Robert Swope, Jeff Syracuse, Russ Pulley, Tanaka Vercher, Angie Henderson, Scott Davis, Holly Huezo, Mike Freeman, Freddie O’Connell, Jeremy Elrod, Dave Rosenberg, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Davette Blalock, Nancy VanReece, Jim Shulman, Sheri Weiner

THE UGLY: We Will Have This Fight Again Next Year

Unfortunately, because the city did not adjust the property tax rate last year or this year, we will see another massive budget shortfall next year, regardless of the city’s growth. Since most of the council members have to run for re-election in 2019, it is difficult to imagine them voting to correct the property tax rate while they are campaigning. The city will also face approximately $125-$150 million in payments on the debt service to the Music City Center (which SEIU opposed).

While we will be working hard over the next year to push major reforms to prevent this from happening, our well-funded opponents from the business sector are also going to do whatever they can to keep your tax dollars flowing into their bank accounts through corporate welfare policies that only benefit them. We expect to be back at this again next spring, but here’s a few things we can do right now to strengthen our hand:

  1. Hold the council members who voted against us accountable – most are up for re-election next year.
  2. Become more active with the union in your workplace. That means recruiting more members and communicating our issues to your co-workers.
  3. Contribute to our political fund, COPE, which will help us elect better politicians next year.

To Learn More About the Outcome of this Year’s Metro Budget:

SEIU Comments on the Council Vote (Newschannel 5)

Article on the Budget Vote (The Tennessean)

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Metro Parks Union Members Awarded for Excellence!

Melissa Rucker & Odessa Kelly

Melissa Rucker & Odessa Kelly

SEIU members Melissa Rucker and Odessa Kelly were honored by Metro Parks and Recreation with employee awards in “dedication” and “community involvement”, respectively. Both are program coordinators and they were selected for recognition by their peers.

Congratulations to them and to find out more, visit Nashville.gov.

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