If Nashville Mayor Karl Dean gets his way, Metro will begin offering partner benefits to its employees, allow Metro high school students to use mass transit for free and add about 500 more pre-K classrooms.
Those were just a few of the priorities outlined in Dean's State of Metro address Wednesday, which felt more like a pep rally than the unveiling of a city budget.
Few cities have a Grammy-winning artist like Ruby Amanfu opening for the mayor, but as Dean said, Nashville's not just any other city.
"We attract bright minds and entrepreneurs and artists. It's the affordability of living here, coupled with the high quality of life," the mayor said.
The city's biggest proposed spending increase will go to education. Dean has earmarked $27.5 million in Metro Nashville Public Schools' operating budget and another $110 million for capital projects like maintenance upgrades and an expansion of the district's pre-K program.
"That's very good. We'll be able to work through that. It's not everything, but it's good, very good," said schools director Dr. Jesse Register.
Register wants a portion of the new funding to support 2 percent pay raises for Metro teachers.
And perhaps one of the more progressive additions to next year's budget are partner benefits for Metro employees, something the mayor says will help Nashville recruit and retain good employees.
"Offering domestic partner benefits to our Metro employees is one more affirmation that we, as a city, respect individual dignity and embrace the differences among us," Dean said.
And no conversation about the seventh-fastest growing city in the nation would be complete without tackling the topic of mass transit.
"Something that we all have to accept is that change is coming with or without transit solutions. Traffic is worse today than it was five, 10 years ago, and it will be even worse five or 10 years from now," Dean said.
Two new bus lines are already planned to the city's current mass transit system - one down Charlotte Pike and another down Nolensville Road - neither of which have a dedicated lane like the Amp project that's been so controversial.
Although no specific funding was mentioned for the Amp, opponents shouldn't celebrate just yet. The proposed rapid bus transit project is on hold until a federal budget is passed.
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