By Steve Hunley

Nashville/Davidson County has its problems.  I suppose all local governments have their problems, but Nashville seems to have more than most.  Pretty much everybody knows about the scandal involving former mayor Meghan Barry and her subsequent resignation.  Now Mayor David Briley is up for reelection this year and the metro government is unstable.

The Davidson County Board of Education is perhaps even more so, with leading Board member Will Pinkston offering his own resignation along with a fiery letter denouncing many of his colleagues.  Much of Pinkston’s fury was directed at his fellow Board members who he accused of giving teachers false hope with an utterly unrealistic budget, which called for a 10% pay raise.  Pinkston, no conservative or penny-pincher, said Davidson County could not afford a 10% raise for teachers in its current fiscal condition.  Many of the teachers cared little about the practicality of raising the necessary funds and adopted the passive-aggressive tactic of calling in sick and not showing up for work.

Nashville’s debt is rising; according to the Tennessean, one dollar out of ten spent by the Davidson County Metro government, went to pay off debt.  The spending on debt service is expected to rise and some former and current government officials warn the present path is unsustainable.  That is an interesting word and one millennials use when worrying about climate change.  We don’t hear it often elsewhere in government, although we should.  Compounding expenses should worry taxpayers, most particularly when special interest groups are demanding more and more money.  Few of those same special interest group members realize, nor do they care where we get the money or just how high taxes rise.  Mayor Briley and the Metro Council refused to raise taxes this year and we saw here in Knox County an effort by some to pressure Mayor Glenn Jacobs to raise taxes.  That course was urged on Mayor Jacobs by folks who didn’t support him and never will support him politically.  They are some of the same folks who support the higher political aspirations of Knox County Board of Education members Terry Hill and Patti Bounds.  Hill wants to run for the Knox County Commission to succeed Brad Anders who has been openly pushing for higher taxes.  Bounds wants to run against Tennessee House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn.  Neither has shown the slightest inclination to roll back the overspending and bloated bureaucracy instituted by former superintendent Jim McIntyre.  Both voted, at one time or another, to keep McIntyre’s Leadership Academy open and every school in the county has numerous assistant principals as McIntyre had to put his graduates somewhere.

The Tennessean has reported Nashville paid almost $252 million in debt last year “up 44 percent from a decade ago.  In the same period, property tax revenues climbed 32 percent.”

Nashville hasn’t been as fiscally conservative as Knox County in recent years, but compounding debt and financial expenditures is usually unsustainable.  The federal debt has reached the point where it’s nothing less than scary.  Compounding expenses and debt to give public employees bigger pay raises, better pensions and more benefits without being fiscally responsible is not sound government.  When did you see the law enforcement folks call in sick or other public employees?  The teachers have been striking in other states to get their way about pay raises, practically extorting the money.  Keep in mind, according to the Knox County School system, the average teacher salary here is $49,700.  Taxpayers likely consider that a pretty good salary, especially for folks who work about nine months out of the year.  I’ll ask you the same question as that commercial on TV: “What’s in your wallet?”  Well, a lot of those folks want what’s in your wallet to put in their own.  That, too, can become unsustainable.