Decision expected Friday on referendum to roll back Nashville tax hike

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Metro Nashville council member who voted against the 34-percent tax increase does not support the referendum to roll the tax hike back.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper brought his concerns to council Tuesday after Americans for Prosperity Tennessee earned enough signatures to have voters decide on the tax increase.

“The city needs to have a balanced budget but the city also needs to cut spending. There’s a number of things that we can point to even you look at the lifetime health – taxpayer funded – health insurance that the metro council members get. That’s one of those things that would be a million dollars a year right there and it’s going to continue to grow on unchecked,” said Tori Venable, Americans for Prosperity Tennessee’s State Director.

The mayor said the idea would create a $322 million dollar deficit for the city and have severe impacts on essential services like police and fire protection, roads and trash collection.

MORE: Nashville mayor addresses Metro Council on property tax increase

“We think that Mayor Cooper is using standard scare tactics,” Venable said. “It’s a threat of cutting public services instead of reducing the bloated government bureaucracy that has been created over the years.”

Metro Nashville Councilman Russ Pulley represents District 25 and said he was not surprised by what he heard.

“I think on the council most of us are well aware of how devastating the impact of what’s being proposed by referendum would be for the city. I’m one of the 8 people who voted against the tax increase so I’m not happy about having to increase our taxes at the rate that Mayor Cooper proposed,” Pulley said. “I am aware that we needed to raise taxes. It’s just unfortunate we had to hit the constituents as hard as we hit them during the time that we’re going through now.”

Pulley said the proposed referendum would cripple the city in many ways and its path is unfeasible.

“The way our charter is set up currently, the finance director has the sole authority over the revenue estimates and he has not put us in a position where we could effect a reasonable reduction in the tax levy,” Pulley said. “I’m pretty much in the camp now that we’re going to have to absorb this tax increase, keeping in mind that by absorbing this tax increase we still are in a pretty favorable position in respect to our overall tax liability in comparison to cities like Nashville throughout the country and in comparison to the big four cities in Tennessee. I know it’s tough for people to absorb and I’m not happy about it. But, we have it now and I just don’t see how there’s going to be a reasonable way for us to break it down more than we have.”

MORE: Metro Council approves budget including 34% property tax increase

Venabale said the referendum would also look to limit government spending.

“The initiative that we worked on would limit it to two percent per year so it [34 percent tax increase] would roll back all but two percent of that unless the voters approve some middle ground,” Venable said. “I think Nashvillians are reasonable people and if there’s a reasonable solution put on the table they might consider it.”

“It would really put us in a bad situation such that we would basically be coming to the public for a referendum for many things that we do moving forward and I don’t think that’s reasonable,” Pulley added. “The public has a say in this. They elect the council. They’re the ones who put us in office and they’re the ones to whom we are accountable so if we don’t do our job properly, they’ll make sure we’re not there.”

Venable said she expects to have a decision about the referendum by Friday, and if approved it would be up for a vote December 5.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and for updates.

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