The 40-member Metro Nashville Council that Republican state lawmakers want to slash in half, is costing taxpayers $1.4 million in salaries and benefits annually.
The bill to cut the council in half comes after Metro Council voted against Republican Gov. Bill Lee's attempt, along with the state GOP, to bring the 2024 Republican National Convention to Nashville.
While Democrat Mayor John Cooper recently sent letters to both the RNC and DNC, expressing interest in hosting the 2028 conventions, the damage is done and Metro Nashville’s Council size is on the chopping block.
On top of cutting the council size, other bills from state Republicans are aimed at defunding Music City Center, taking control of the airport authority and sports authority and scrapping runoff elections for local races, which could give Republicans a leg up in those races, Axios reported.
The Democrat-led Nashville government has the third largest city council in the country, behind New York City and Chicago, even though its population is ranked 25th.
The Metropolitan Council’s 40 members represent approximately 704,000 people who live in Davidson County, or approximately 17,600 residents per council member.
That’s compared to a 51-member New York City Council, which represents 8.5 million people, or 166,666 residents per council member. Chicago City Council has 50 councilmembers, or 54,000 residents per councilmember for its 2.7 million residents.
Nashville is ranked the 25th largest city in the U.S. and much larger municipalities around the country have much smaller councils. The Los Angeles City Council, representing 3.8 million residents, has 15 members, each with 253,333 constituents.
Philadelphia has 17 council members for its 1.6 million people, and Houston has 16 members for its 2.3 million residents.
Metro Nashville’s 35 members elected to districts and five at-large members each collect a $23,100 salary for their work, and most collect health, dental and vision benefits.
Of the 40 part-time council members, 31 get health and/or dental insurance from Metro, costing taxpayers $436,381 in 2022. Twenty-one of the members have plans covering their spouses/children, according to Metro records provided to OpenTheBooks.com via a Tennessee Public Records Act request.
The cost per councilmember ranges from $440.88 annually for dental coverage for the member only, to $20,816 for a member and their family to have health and dental insurance. The members bear the entire cost of vision plans, up to $178 annually.
The councilmembers contribute $153,366 toward the benefits, or 25% of the cost.
Salaries total $924,000, bringing taxpayer-funded pay and benefits to $1.4 million annually.
In April 2021, Metro Council voted to no longer give future council members generous health benefits in retirement, The Tennessean reported. Former two-term council members and their spouses had been guaranteed health insurance coverage for life, paying only 25% of premiums since the 1990s.
In 2020, current and former council members cost taxpayers more than $837,400 for health insurance benefits, the newspaper reported. The cost was expected to increase to $1.2 million by 2024.
The new policy for former members dictates that for the first two years after leaving the two-term office, councilmembers pay only 25% of the premium, with taxpayers covering the rest.
But after two years, costs are split 50-50 for another two years, then move to members paying 75% of the premium, which matches what other city employees pay if they have worked for 10 years.
The mayor and vice mayor didn’t respond to requests for comment by our deadline.