Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced during his virtual State of the Metro address Tuesday that he plans to “sharply increase” the city’s property tax rate.
Cooper said the Nashville Finance Department predicts that revenue from sales taxes and other activities will be down between $200 and $300 million because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the unusual circumstances, Cooper didn’t have a budget proposal to discuss but said the budget ordinance he plans to present to the Metro Council in April will “sharply” increase the city’s property tax rate. Cooper said the final rate will still be lower than other cities throughout Tennessee.
“Let me be direct: the budget ordinance that will be filed with the Council in April will sharply increase the property tax rate from its current historically low level,” he said. “The final amount will be determined with the best information available but it will be substantial and this is something we have to do.”
Cooper is required to submit his budget proposal to the Metro Council by April 28 and the Council then has until June 30 to approve the increased rate for next year’s budget.
The mayor was opposed to increasing property taxes during his mayoral campaign last year and when he was a member of the Metro Council, but he said the city’s “finances are in a place where there is no option.”
“We can’t print money or borrow to cover our operating expenses. We must raise property taxes, as difficult as that is right now,” he continued. “This is not a budget message, as much as it is a statement of principles. Through careful financial stewardship, we will meet today’s challenges and build a greater city on the other side.”
He said the city government doesn’t have a rainy day fund and “actually thinned its cash balances,” which has “left us vulnerable in what has become a stormy season.”
“I expected to be here today with the budget to put our fiscal house in order and to invest in our neighbors, in our schools, in transportation, in affordable housing, and in public safety,” he said. “Then came the unexpected: the tornado and the coronavirus pandemic.”
Cooper also announced during his address that he will be extending Nashville’s stay-at-home order through April 24.
As of Tuesday, Tennessee had 2,239 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 391 in Davidson County.
Cooper’s full address can be watched below:
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mayor Cooper Press Conference” by Metro Nashville Network.