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Mayor Cooper's proposed 32 percent property tax increase getting strong pushback


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Nashville Mayor John Cooper says his proposed 32 percent increase in property taxes is the only way to fix the city’s pandemic battered budget, but a number of Metro Council Members beg to differ.

Mayor John Cooper made a grim budget proposal to the City Council Tuesday afternoon. He began the virtual presentation by noting that the March 3 tornado and the ongoing health crisis will cost the city $192 million in April, May and June alone.

Cooper revealed that to stay in the black during the final weeks of the fiscal year, the city will be forced to dramatically reduce expenditures and deplete nearly all its cash reserves. Nashville will end its budget year with an estimated $12 million dollars on hand, a frighteningly small sum for a city the size of Nashville.

The mayor went on to say getting Metro’s finances back on track in the new fiscal year that begins July 1 will be even more painful. He told council members current estimates suggest the twin tornado and pandemic disasters will ultimately cost the city some $470 million. That’s about $1 out of every $5 dollars the city normally spends in a year’s time.

To respond to the health crisis, maintain current city services and replenish depleted reserves, Cooper has proposed a $1 increase in the property tax. Should the increase be approved, owners will pay just over 800 dollars more each year in taxes for a home valued at the current Nashville median price of $330,000.

Credit Nashville.gov
Mayor John Cooper prepares for a virtual budget presentation to the Metro Council May28, 2020.

Mayor Cooper argued that even after such a dramatic rise in property taxes, Nashville residents will still have one of the smallest big city tax burdens in the nation. He warned failing to implement the increase will require dramatic cuts in city services, and layoffs for many city employees.

Within hours of the presentation, a number of Council Members were pushing back against the proposal. Councilman Steve Glover took to social media to urge residents to resist the increase saying “your wallet is counting on you.” Glover will reportedly propose an alternative budget.

The council’s minority caucus released a statement yesterday saying in part “If the administration thinks the budget is a ‘done deal,’ our message is ‘no way.”

Council Budget Committee Chair Bob Mendes has pushed a property tax increase for years, but even he has reservations. Mendes expressed particular concerns about job cuts such a budget would cause among key non-profits that provide the city with critical services.

The council doesn’t have much time to agree on a way forward. A new budget must be approved by no later than June 30.

You can review Mayor Cooper’s entire budget presentation here.

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