Metro budget, proposed tax increase up for final vote

Metro budget, proposed tax increase up for final vote (Image 1)

It could be a long and noisy night at the Metro Courthouse with the subject of taxes taking center stage.

Before what's expected to be a overflow audience in the Metro Council chambers, members plan to take a final vote on either Mayor Karl Dean's $1.71 billion budget proposal that includes a 53-cent property tax hike, or a similar substitute budget approved by a council committee on Monday.

The substitute budget includes the 53-cent property tax hike, but diverts $8.6 million dollars in reserve funds and make small cuts to the Mayor's $100-million dollar increase over last year's Metro budget

Mayor Dean has been able to cut the city operating budget in years past, but that came at the expense of several government jobs.

He said the extra tax dollars will go to the schools to pay for overdue school repairs and raise teachers pay.

It will also save the jobs of 200 Metro police officers that are currently funded in part by federal grant money.

The mayor today said he supports a substitute Metro budget.

“That's a good budget and I hope that is the budget that passes tonight,” Dean said.

“It's the most fiscally responsible thing for them to do and I am very supportive of that,” the mayor added.

The numerous reductions made in the substitute budget compared to the Mayor's budget range from $3.5 million less for education with the difference transferred to a school reserve fund, to $211,000 less for police.

Expect several attempts by Council Members like Charlie Tygard to add amendments to the substitute budget which might lower the proposed property tax increase.

“Only once in the 50-plus history of the Metro Government has the council not reduced Mayor's proposed budget,” Tygard told News2 today.

Citizens had their say about the proposed budget and property tax hike at the council's last meeting earlier this month.

The group Moving Nashville Forward is in support of the increase.

“The amounts of employees that we have cut is 700 or so, over the last five years, and there is just not a lot of fat left to cut,” former council member and Moving Nashville Forward  leader Erik Cole said.

“People want services but they don't want to pay for them,” said one supporter at the meeting.

Another supporter added, “I know that none of us like to pay higher taxes, but unfortunately it's these higher taxes that you're paying that help to provide a cost of living that provide services for you.”

Tennessee Tax Revolt leader and Tea Party member Ben Cunningham is against the proposal and has urged Nashville's citizens to get involved.

“Get involved and examine it, and say, ‘Yes, I am willing to take this out of my family budget,' or ‘I am not willing to take this money out of my family budget,'” he has said.

“I'm a little angry and a little outraged that this is even an option that you would raise taxes on the producing people of this community,” a man against the proposal said at the meeting.

Another woman added, “I understand there are a lot of things we have to support with property taxes but the problem is there are a lot of people who just can't afford it.”

The proposed property tax increase is the first for Nashville since 2005.

The Metro Council must pass a city budget by July 1.

Stay with News 2 throughout the day and watch Nashville's News 2 at 10 p.m. for complete coverage of the council vote.

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