NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than 26,000 petition signatures to repeal Nashville’s approved 34 percent property tax increase was verified, but if a referendum will be on the ballot is still up in the air.
The election commission will vote on Friday on if a special election will be held in December. In the meantime, emergency personnel are worried layoffs could be the consequence of a passed ballot.
“That would pretty much, primarily, only impact salary and benefits for personnel,” said Emergency Communications Director for Davidson County Stephen Martini.
Martini said if Nashville repealed the property tax increase in a referendum, the $322 million deficit would greatly affect jobs and the calls 911 dispatchers could answer.
“If that were applied to all departments equally or evenly and we were asked to do that, we would likely see a few dozen folks laid off,” said Martini.
Between 60 to 75 percent of calls 911 dispatchers take are non-emergency calls, according to Martini. He explained that without a full staff, some of those calls may go unanswered.
“It’s those other calls that we say ‘well, it’s not bad yet, but it could be.’ And if we get to those calls and it takes us longer to answer them, we may find ourselves getting quicker to now it’s a problem,” said Martini.
Mayor John Cooper said if the tax rate is placed on a ballot, essential services would also be at risk. Things like trash collection, repaving roads, building repairs could suffer if the money for public works is cut.
Americans for Prosperity Tennessee submitted petition signatures to the election commission in August. The group believes funding could be pulled from other outlets than emergency services or education.
“Before the mayor starts threatening to strip essential services like police, fire, and education, government officials should take a hard look at all of their pet projects to assess if now is the time to take on billions of more debt,” State Director Tori Venable said in a statement.
Venable said the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act would limit tax increases to only two-percent per year without a referendum.
“Nashville needs to get its priorities in order, the mayor’s threats to defund public services first just might spur more Nashvillians to call his bluff,” said Venable in the statement.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 as we learn more from Friday’s election commission vote.