NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The Davidson County Election Commission has <a title=”Signatures verified for property tax increase referendum” href=”https://www.wsmv.com/tncms/asset/editorial/aeb6a981-23ce-573f-ab36-48cd4f300945/”>certified enough signatures on a petition to have a special election to roll back the recent property tax increase to 2%.</a>
The certification now goes back to the Metro Clerk’s Office.
With the certification, there will likely be a special election on Dec. 5 to consider the referendum.
If the referendum passes, property tax increases in Davidson County would be capped at 2% unless there is a voter referendum.
Metro Council passed a 34% property tax increase in June for the new operating budget that began on July 1.
Mayor John Cooper’s office said the amendment, if approved, would create a $332 million deficit for this fiscal year, threaten Metro’s credit rating, constrain the city’s ability to set property taxes to pay for services and result in a suspension of capital projects.
The proposed amendment would result in dramatic cuts to essential services such as emergency response, schools, trash collection and road repair throughout Nashville.
“This would cripple our city and gut essential city services. After two natural disasters this year, we don’t need a self-inflicted one. This would severely weaken Nashville at a time when we need to build Nashville stronger,” said Cooper in a news release.
“We estimate it would cost $800,000,” Jeff Roberts with the Davidson County Election Commission said.
Attorney Jim Roberts, who started the petition drive, said it would limit property increases to no more than 2 percent a year, repealing that proposed 34% increase.
“It’s an abuse of the taxpayers,” Roberts said.
More than 12,000 people signed a petition asking for a referendum.
“It should be left up to the voters because we’re the ones that are going to have to pay it,” renter Donita Hines said. “Our rent has literally been the same since we moved in 12 years ago so I’d like to keep it that way.”
The Mayor’s Office said the FY21 budget provided for a continuity of city services during the pandemic and began to restore Metro’s dangerously thin cash reserves. This proposed charter amendment comes at a time when Nashville’s financial position was already destabilized by a $216 million decline in sales tax and other activity taxes this fiscal year, in line with state forecasts. With this amendment, Nashville would be left unable to make up for the lost revenue.
“It is absolutely not time to roll it back now,” Anthony Davis, who is a former council member and owns a business in East Nashville, said. “As a business owner, I feel like yeah of course, we don’t like an increase on property taxes. Most people that rent for businesses, it does funnel through to them, but it needed to be done.”
The proposed amendment would immediately move the budget out of balance and create a $332 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. As a result, Metro would be compelled to take immediate corrective actions to comply with state law and the Metro Charter’s balanced budget requirement.
The massive cuts to city services in the proposed amendment include:
cutting trash pick-up to twice a monthcutting 557 fire positionscutting the police force by one-thirdrendering schools “unrecognizable.”
The referendum, if it passes, also forces metro to go to the voters first before issuing bonds worth more than $15 million for a building project and limits their ability to give away public land.
“This referendum takes a lot of power from the mayor and council. Some people are going to think that’s a great idea, some people aren’t,” Kent Syler said.
This petition will complicate sending out property tax bills, which at the printers now and due to be mailed in the next few weeks.