NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Mayor John Cooper and State Comptroller Justin Wilson addressed Metro City Council Tuesday night about an effort to roll back Nashville’s property tax increase.
If the 34% property tax increase is repealed in a December special election, according to the mayor, the city will be unable to fund adequate police and fire departments, trash will go uncollected, and teachers will leave.
“There will be no way to pay for any of this,” Mayor Cooper said. “It takes the problem of financial weakness and makes it chronic and permanent.”
Mayor Cooper added there would be significant impacts on essential services if the tax hike is rolled back.
Comptroller Wilson also warned against metro not having a balanced budget.
“If this matter is placed on the ballot and it passes, our progress as a great city will end. We will have inadequate police and fire protection. Fire insurance rates will go up. Emergency response time will go down,” the mayor said. “Roads would go unpaved, sidewalks unbuilt, trash uncollected, recycling stopped, schools will be unrecognizable. Class sizes will increase. Buildings will go unrepaired. Teachers will leave. They will go to counties where they are supported.”
The mayor said the impact would be a $322 million deficit for the city, and he went on to warn homeowners of the impact they could see as well.
“Mandating this retroactive shortfall halfway after the fiscal year has started will create pure and complete budget instability. It will mean sharper cuts than just 34 percent for the balance of the year,” Mayor Cooper said. “For those of you at home, your property values are at stake. Home values go down in a city too broke to pick up trash.”
“It’s kind of like Metro would be like a teenager coming to their parent asking for $20 to go to the movies,” Wilson said. “Understand what this means. No longer do you set spending for Metro, [the] comptroller’s office does. You do not want that.”
If metro cannot balance a budget, as a last resort, the comptroller will manage its finances.
The city’s election commission is expected to decide on the property tax referendum by Friday.