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Mayor Cooper Announces Capital Spending Plan Reform Legislation

11/13/2019
Chris Song

Proposed ordinance would require Metro to fully itemize and appropriate funds for public projects before construction begins

Mayor John Cooper today announced that his administration has partnered with Metro Council Budget and Finance Chair Bob Mendes to write legislation that reforms future Capital Spending Plans. In the interest of improved clarity and government transparency, the legislation would require Metro Council and the Mayor’s Office to fully itemize and appropriate funds for public projects before construction begins.

The proposed ordinance mandates the development of a “Capital Project Cost Itemization Form,” which specifically lists at least 11 projected cost items − including land acquisition, design, and construction − for all proposed capital projects with an estimated value of over $5 million.

Past initial bond resolutions that fund Metro’s Capital Spending Plans have featured generically labeled projects with little to no itemizations of specific costs or details regarding project phases, a practice that has created uncertainty and often led to project announcements creating the false impression that a project was fully funded.

“The under-appropriation for the Sherriff’s headquarters project, which was not the fault of the DCSO, demonstrates problems that can be avoided through commonsense Capital Spending Plan reform,” said Mayor Cooper. “I was disappointed to learn the actual financial position of the headquarters project, and I am now acting to bring about policies to prevent such problems in the future.”

The Sheriff’s headquarters project did not run over budget as reported but was instead under-appropriated for purposes of completing construction. Another example is First Tennessee Park – now First Horizon Park – which eventually required additional funding from the Greenways budget in order to complete construction.

In his first six weeks on the job, Mayor Cooper has continued the close examination of Metro’s financial policies and procedures that began during his tenure as a member of Metro Council. Fiscal stewardship was a primary theme of Cooper’s mayoral campaign, and his administration is keenly focused on identifying opportunities to improve Metro’s stewardship.

“I challenge and encourage the Budget and Finance Committee to propose additional ideas for reform that will improve Metro’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” added Mayor Cooper.