24 Metro Councilmembers co-sponsor ordinance authorizing Transit Referendum

Mayor Megan Barry standing before Vice Mayor Briley and councilmembers.  Barry has the support of 24 councilmembers, all but assuring that her plan will become a reality.

Mayor Megan Barry standing before Vice Mayor Briley and councilmembers. Barry has the support of 24 councilmembers, all but assuring that her plan will become a reality.

Mayor Megan Barry was joined by Vice Mayor David Briley and members of the Metro Council to announce the introduction of an ordinance that would authorize a May 1 transit referendum in Davidson County.

“Our transit improvement program will allow Nashville to manage our inevitable growth in a more sustainable way that ensures the great new jobs, amenities, and new residents resulting from this growth will not detract from the quality of life of Nashvillians now and into the future,” said Mayor Barry. “I couldn’t be more excited that a majority of council members have signed on as co-sponsors to the ordinance that will allow voters to determine their transportation future.”

In filing the ordinance, 24 members of the Metro Council have agreed to sign on as co-sponsors of the legislation so far. Co-sponsors of the ordinance as of Monday, December 11 include: Councilmembers-at-Large Erica Gilmore, Sharon Hurt, Jim Shulman, and District Councilmembers Brett Withers, Anthony Davis, Nancy VanReece, Bill Pridemore, Doug Pardue, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Jeff Syracuse, Mike Freeman, Colby Sledge, Burkley Allen, Freddie O’Connell, Sheri Weiner, Kathleen Murphy, Russ Pulley, Jeremy Elrod, Tanaka Vercher, Karen Y. Johnson, Jason Potts, Fabian Bedne, Antoinette Lee.

“This referendum would be the most significant policy decision put to the voters of Davidson County since the formation of the Metropolitan Government was approved in 1962,” said Vice Mayor Briley. “Given the significance of this moment, we need to do everything we can to ensure a fair, open, and deliberative process in deciding whether to place this referendum on the ballot.”

Briley has proposed a series of meetings to allow councilmembers to discuss the referendum ordinance and hear from members of the public about the proposal.
• December 19, 2017 – First Reading
• January 9, 2018 – Public Hearing
• January 11, 2018 – Committee consideration with a committee of the whole composed of all councilmembers
• January 16, 2018 – Second Reading
• February 6, 2018 – Third Reading

Councilmember Jeremy Elrod, chairman of the Metro Council Public Works Comm-ittee, will serve as lead sponsor of the ordin-ance, guiding the bill through the legislative process.

“I’m pleased to be joined by so many of my Metro Council colleagues who have signed on to promote and invest in transportation independence in Nashville,” said Elrod. “I look forward to a robust and lively discussion over the coming weeks, and I hope that conversation will end with the voters of Davidson County having the opportunity to vote FOR a transit program that will create transportation independence in our city.”

Included in the ordinance authorizing the referendum will be ballot language. Under the provisions of the IMPROVE Act, which authorizes a local transit referendum, the ballot language must be 250 words or less and include information about the proposed transit improvement program. The language proposed by Mayor Barry’s administration is as follows:

“Passage of this measure will allow the Metropolitan Govern-ment to improve and expand its transit services to include: expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improve-ments to the Music City Star train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and pedestrian connections; and system modernization. The Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Depart-ment of Public Works will undertake the projects and implement the program. The transit improvements and expansion will be funded by tax surcharges that will end once all debt issued for the program has been paid and the Metropolitan Council determines upon the adoption of a resolution that the revenues from the surcharges are no longer needed for operation of the program. The surcharges will consist of: 1) a sales tax surcharge of 0.5% for the first five years, increasing to one percent in 2023; 2) a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25% for the first five years, increasing to 0.375% in 2023; 3) a 20% surcharge on the business/excise tax; and 4) a 20% surcharge on the rental car tax. The capital cost of the program is estimated to have a present day value of $5,354,000,000, with recurring operations and maintenance costs having a present day value at the year the improvements are com-pleted of approximately $99,500,000.”

Detailed transit improvement program documents were filed along with the ordinance on December 12. Prior to final consideration by the Metro Council, an independent CPA firm approved by the State Comptroller will provide an assessment as to the financial assumptions made in the capital and operating costs, as well as funding mechanisms for the plan.