Nashville leaders want real estate revenues used to pay debt, not funding

Green Hills Fire Hall-FOX 17 News

It’s old and underutilized. It’s also a gold mine. That’s how city leaders are describing some Metro properties like the old fire hall in Green Hills on Richard Jones Rd. It’s one of two properties Nashville city leaders plan to sell to help make ends meet. That’s a move Green Hills Grille owner Steven Smithing welcomes.

“Leaving it vacant probably isn’t what the people of Nashville want or are best served by. Obviously, the more people that live in Green Hills or do business in Green Hills is better for my business.

The old hall along in Green Hills and the old fire hall in the Nations on Charlotte Avenue will be auctioned off in a few months. For years, the hall in the Nations has been used by Public Works to store equipment and salt used to brine the roads.

Money made from the sale of those buildings will be used for the operational budget to help fund key city departments like police, fire and schools. The sell of property to operate the city has long been a move used by Metro. However, Metro council members said enough is enough. During Tuesday’s meeting, they voted 34-0 that all money made from all future property sales must be used to pay down debt, not use for daily operations. That goes into effect July 1.

“This is a good step but this is a very very small first step,” said Mark Cunningham of the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Cunningham has studied Metro government spending and budget management. He says selling property for daily expenses is like selling a car to pay the mortgage instead of paying down credit card debt for long term financial relief.

Council members and school board members have long criticized the process saying the move is a temporary fix. Those behind the bill passed by council members say they want the city to figure out how to better manage the budget long term so they won’t have to scramble to pay for daily needs.

“The issue is, that’s a one-time solution to a problem that’s systemic. The problem is that we’re spending too much money. We’re spending more money than we have that needs to be addressed,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham says 100 people moving to the city every day means more tax revenue and sales revenue but the city remains in debt. That’s mostly because the city didn’t bring in the $26 million it banked on to help pay teachers, officers, firefighters and others who help keep the city afloat.

City department heads will soon begin putting together their budget proposals to present to Mayor David Briley in the spring. No word yet on how he plans to fund daily costs moving ahead.

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