Referendum on Nashville’s property taxes

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Nashville has been hit with a 34% increase in our property taxes that is causing some needed but heated discussion. There is no question that the property tax will have a great impact on services that help keep our city afloat including teachers and police (to name a few), but the question so many are asking is this: Is it possible to reduce the budget by other possible measures to keep the property tax at a minimal. In considering the effects of the devastating coronavirus and hampered economy, many people are far from recuperating financially and are not in a position to pay this exorbitant property tax.

However, many citizens feel that there are exaggerations being spread that the city will be drastically crippled and basically ineffective if this property tax is not accepted  (minus any budgetary changes or cuts). Scare tactics are being incorporated by some groups supporting the property tax to sway voters into supporting the tax increase by making them feel guilty or presenting a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario that could come about if not supported. Presented a desperate picture, making voters feel guilty about what may possibly occur without their support. It’s an old political tactic.

Even if things were better, there would be major opposition to this humongous property tax increase. Surely biting the bullet and making much needed budget deductions (or trying to maintain present budgets) should be considered instead of going forward with a list of things wished for. Mind you, many families are forced at one time or another to sacrifice and make drastic cuts to keep their heads afloat and maintain some type of normalcy—out of desperation. Why can’t we expect our local government to do the same, especially during trying times?

Idealistically, the increased property tax will support projects that will make this city better, but realistically the price asked at his time will hurt a large number of homeowners who are grasping to survive as it is. We must be cognizant that although there may be some people who haven’t suffered financially from the pandemic, there are those who are literally drowning and looking for a lifeline.

There seems to be a media blast by some groups trying to manipulate one’s conscience, trying to convince citizens that not supporting this property tax is evil—making you culpable in the possible downfall of the city. Using core workers such as policeman, firemen and teachers as leverage to support this property tax could be seen as disingenuous by some—a scare tactic or gross exaggeration. While many businesses cry that this 34% property tax is a lifeline needed to help the city recover from the economic loss created by the corona virus, it would be a slap in the face to so many voters trying to financially keep their heads above water.

A referendum was approved by the Davidson County Election Committee for July 27 after the tireless efforts of the group ‘4 Good Government’ who initiated a petition that was signed by 1200 Nashvillians. The petition seeks to limit property tax rates, establish the ability to recall elected officials, preserve voter’s charter amendments and protect publicly owned parks, greenways and lands. The petition supporters are advocating appeals the drastic 34% property tax, but it would also cap future property taxes at three percent. The special election will offer voters more leverage in empowering themselves with more say over future tax increases, public property transfers and recall elections.

The Metro Council is at odds with this referendum arguing that it is unconstitutional by giving voters the power to amend the City Charter and existing laws and policies. Many concerned groups are also against the referendum, charging that this may set a precedent that may prove detrimental to the governing of the city. This concern may be shared by some governing agencies and politicians making laws and policies. They fear the results of certain referendums will usurp their power. But one must question: Isn’t the city council supposed to support the wishes of their constituents? Why would they collectively be against a referendum spearheaded to address a much contested concern by a certain percentage of the voters?

Whether you vote ‘No’ to not appeal the 34% property tax or ‘Yes’ to appeal the 34% property tax, this referendum is bound to set a precedent. But when all is said and done, the voice and wishes of the voters of this city must be heard and respected. Nashvillians, make sure your voice is heard July 27, 2021.

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