The Nashville Metro Council narrowly rejected a proposal to increase property taxes by 16% as part of the 2018-2019 fiscal budget. Now a local school board member wants to propose a referendum for voters to decide.
In a meeting that lasted over six hours, the Council voted 20-19 against the tax increase that would have helped fund Metro schools and employee pay raises. Acting vice Mayor Sheri Weiner broke the tie vote. Had it passed, the increase would have been the city’s first tax hike since 2012.
A key committee endorsed the budget plan led by Councilman Bob Mendes. Mendes said the city deviated from when it typically adjusts the tax rate, which left less revenue than expected, even amid the city's growth. He said a tax increase should have occurred last year to coincide with the city's property reappraisal that saw a record increase in average values across Davidson County.
Nashville’s current combined property tax rate of $3.155 is considered low. Mendes said his proposal to increase it to $3.655 in the Urban Services District would still have kept the rate below Tennessee's other largest cities.
Following the Council vote, Metro School Board member Christiane Buggs announced she wants to look into the possibility of a voter referendum to raise property taxes. Among other shortages, the decision not to increase taxes means Metro Schools remain underfunded by $22 million.
Buggs says she’s not trying to circumvent the processes already in place with the Metro Council and Mayor; she just wants to explore all possible options.
“It’s good to just know what taxpayers want,” Buggs said. “If they want to support schools in this way, we should at least offer them the chance.”