Dealing with the $17 million budget shortfall facing Metro Schools is one of the many challenges for Nashville's next mayor. Already, school officials are scrambling to find the money so no teachers get laid off and funding for students doesn't get cut.
So our first question for the candidates was:
Would you raise taxes to increase funding for Metro schools?
And the candidates for mayor are divided over whether to raise taxes to fund schools.
Retired conservative radio host, Ralph Bristol, is fundamentally opposed to raising taxes for Metro Schools or for any other purpose.
"We do not need to raise taxes," Bristol said. "If the only way we can solve problems is to raise taxes there is something dramatically wrong with our tax structure."
Bristol is among the most adamant of the 12 candidates for mayor against raising taxes. Others say they were more open to it. That group includes Councilwoman Erica Gilmore.
"I think we just really need to look at that as something that is definitely on the table," Gilmore said. "It's not something that definitely has to be done, but it is a way that we will have to generate more revenues."
Some would only raise taxes as a last resort. That includes the sitting mayor David Briley and Jeff Obafemi Carr, also a candidate.
Carr is a father of five children, four of whom are enrolled in Metro Schools. But he would do a top-to-bottom look at school spending before making any decision.
"The first approach to me is to become fiscally responsible," Carr said. "If we can find a place where we're wasting resources…that's the first place we cut. Before we think about raising any taxes."
Funding schools is a recurring issue for candidates. While campaigning in 2015, former mayor Megan Barry was asked the same question. She told the Nashville Scene at the time that the city should find "new revenue sources" to fund the schools rather than raising taxes.
QUESTION: Would you raise taxes to increase funding for Metro schools?
Carlin Alford: "I would not be against it, but here's the issue — we are allocating our dollars to the wrong places."
David Briley: "I believe if we manage well this year we won't need to raise taxes next year either."
Albert Hacker: "I think a better plan of action would be to take a look at things that aren't making a difference that are being funded and eliminate those; see things that are working but may be over-funded, and restructure that line item in the budget to where we're not having waste."
David Hiland: "In a heartbeat…If it meant, for our community, to pay more, so our kids could have a better education and for our kids to have quality teachers in the schools, that’s gonna teach them, I don’t think that any resident of Davidson County would oppose that.”
Julia Clark-Johnson: "If the need was there, I would raise taxes. But once again, I would want the consensus of the community, and that's all about going out and educating them as to why this is necessary."
Harold Love: "Raising taxes to increase funding for Metro schools would be a last ditch effort…. I would work within the budget we have to get them what exactly they need to go forward… I think there is a conversation we have with the business community about them investing into our school systems and again paying their fair share of sort of funding our schools."
Jeff Napier: "My idea is to not raise taxes for any reason…Metro wide there's enough of that going on that we could stop the spending there to put money towards a school or school security and education."
John Sewell: "We've just misallocated up to this point. I think there is enough money. I really find myself thinking like the Nihilists from Big Lebowski. Where's the money? Where's the money? What happened? All these people that are running things — the city managers, the city leaders — they've kind of squandered one of the greatest windfalls, and so now we have a shortfall when we should be sitting on piles of cash like rappers."
Carol Swain: "I feel like the citizens are taxed enough and so that would be a last resort for me. First I would try to make government operate more effectively and more efficiently. And then if that didn't work, I would consider what my other options were."