Kevin Crumbo, Nashville’s finance director who helped Mayor John Cooper navigate a potential state takeover of its finances and a property tax increase during the pandemic, will step down from his role at the city.
Crumbo, who noted he was hired to help stabilize the city’s financial structure under the Cooper administration, said he is ready to hand over the reins to his successor. Touting the city’s financial shape and post-pandemic economic recovery efforts, Crumbo said the timing is ideal.
“That mission has been accomplished despite many unforeseen challenges,” he said in a letter addressed to the finance department Wednesday.
Crumbo will return to Pine Haven Family Office — a family investment company he started roughly 10 years ago. He does not yet know his last day at the city.
“I want to thank Kevin for his commitment during one of the hardest years in our city’s history. He played a key role in helping Nashville get its finances back on track so we can invest in our growing community,” Cooper said in a statement.
“When Kevin joined Metro government, he told us he could give us a year. I’m grateful he gave us almost two. We will work with Kevin to ensure a smooth transition within Metro Finance.”
Cooper tapped Crumbo for the role in September 2019. Since then, Crumbo helped the mayor navigate a threatened state takeover of the city’s finances at a time when the city had increasingly relied on one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses.
The city had to overcome a $41.5 million budget gap, in part because a private parking deal proposed by former Mayor David Briley fell through.
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The following year, the city got hit with a tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic. Crumbo worked to craft a spending plan that relied on a 34% property tax increase, a move that helped stabilize the city’s operating budget and replenished its dwindling reserves.
The increase was among the achievements Crumbo said he’s most proud of during his tenure.
“Bringing our revenue into line with a city our size, making the correction that was needed for our property taxes … that got us through the pandemic,” he said in an interview. “I’m not a believer that an organization like this can cut its way to success.”
This year, the city’s spending plan provided $50 million toward teacher raises and easily passed the Metro Council with few changes, although it continues to face criticism from community activists for its nearly $11 million increase to the police department’s budget.
Still, the financial picture for the city has troublesome signs ahead and last year’s tax increase proved controversial. Last week, a judge threw out a petition to put a rollback of that increase before voters on July 27.
The city also faces a $4.3 billion unfunded liability for future retiree health care, although a recent proposal to shift eligible retirees to a Medicare Advantage plan could trim about $1.1 billion from that total.
The remainder of the liability should be “quite manageable” for a city the size of Nashville, Crumbo said.
“(What) the mayor’s office and the council should consider doing is using part of the savings … and start putting money away to fund that for the future,” he said.
Crumbo, long a prominent Nashville accountant specializing in the restructuring of struggling companies, has tackled a number of high-profile endeavors in Music City — beyond his time working for Cooper.
He helped advise former Mayor Megan Barry’s administration on the future of Nashville General Hospital. For more than a year, he worked for free to advise the administration but did not document any of his recommendations in a public report.
In late 2017, Barry announced a plan to end inpatient care at the city’s safety net hospital, a move that led to furious backlash and one she ultimately backed off on.
The details of Crumbo’s recommendations have remained secret. Since he provided his advice to Metro’s lawyers, the city cited attorney-client privilege to withhold details.
The Barry administration credited Crumbo in helping the city explore ways to improve the hospital’s finances. His advice led Barry in 2016 to an expansion of the hospital authority board from seven to 11 members, for instance.
Crumbo, who previously led KraftCPAs, a Nashville-based accounting firm, also was instrumental in the restructuring efforts with the Nashville Symphony during its financial mismanagement in 2013.
He also offered his expertise in helping The Contributor, Nashville’s street newspaper sold by homeless residents, in 2014 when it appeared on the verge of closing.
He joined KraftCPAs in 2004 after leaving the Nashville accounting firm Crowe Chizek & Co. to start the new business recovery arm at KraftCPAs. He’s an alum of the executive MBA program of Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School and began his accounting career in San Francisco.
In 2019, Crumbo was on a sailing trip near the Svalbard Islands, in Norway’s arctic region, when he and several other prominent Nashvillians — including former Mayor Karl Dean — had to be rescued by helicopter after their boat caught fire. In a presentation to the city’s rotary club, they were dubbed the “Arctic 8.”
Crumbo said he is working with Cooper’s office on a transition plan soon. In the meantime, he said he hopes his successor continues to steer the city toward heavy investment “in the community.”
That means more money in education, public safety, transportation and affordable housing, he said.
“They need to continue to focus on growing the economy, which will grow the revenue base,” he said.
Reach Yue Stella Yu at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @bystellayu_tnsn.
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