During another lengthy meeting that began Tuesday night and went into Wednesday morning, by a 32 to 8 vote the Nashville Metro Council passed a budget that includes a record 34 percent property tax increase, increased funding for police, cost-of-living raises to city employees, increases funding to the school district as well as funding for a school district minimum wage of $15 per hour.
The Council-approved property tax increase is even higher than the 32 percent increase that Mayor John Cooper called for in his budget proposal.
The budget that passed was an amended version of that proposed by Member-at-Large Bob Mendes, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee.
However, unpopular but loud calls for the defunding of police were also unsuccessful.
In fact, additional funding of $2.6 million was included that the department says is needed to hire 48 recruits. Another $2.1 million will go toward full deployment of body-worn cameras, according to a statement from Mayor Cooper.
The property tax rate will increase $1.066 from the current $3.155 per $100 of assessed value to $4.221 in the city’s urban district.
The increased burden on taxpayers comes on top of the devastating March 3 tornadoes and the effects of Mayor Cooper’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, which continue to impact the ability of citizens to earn an income and the operation of many Nashville businesses at full capacity.
While Mayor Cooper and others have attempted to promote the increased property tax rate as lower than that of other major city/county tax rates, the argument is disingenuous when the property value portion of the equation is omitted from the tax burden discussion.
Because of the high value of properties in Nashville/Davidson County, property tax revenues on a per-penny-of-tax-rate basis to the city were more than 50 percent higher than the next highest-valued properties in Memphis/Shelby County in 2018, the most recent year data was available.
As recently as Monday, Mayor Cooper dismissed the issue of tax burden on Nashville’s property owners.
“Financial matters are easy for misunderstanding,” Mayor Cooper said during the June 15 COVID-19 Press Conference, but the tax burden is “because your values have increased and we should be celebrating that not complaining about it.”
An effort by Metro Council Member-At-Large Steve Glover to lessen the burden on property owners through a combination of budget cuts, an increase to the wheel tax, and a lower property tax increase as well as budget alternatives proposed by two other Council members were unsuccessful.
Nashville property owners will see the increase in their property tax bills that are mailed by the trustee’s office the first week of October and must be paid in full by the last day of February 2021.
The NoTax4Nash grassroots group pledged to initiate a recall election for Council members and Mayor Cooper for their support or vote in favor of a property tax increase, said spokeswoman Michelle Foreman.
The volunteer effort of 4GoodGovernment.com is working on The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act.
Among other provisions, The Tennessee Star reported, the Act seeks to limit Nashville’s Mayor and Metro Council on raising property taxes to no more than 2 percent per year without a vote from the public.
Watch the full discussion and vote:
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star. The Associated Press contributed to this report.