53-Cent Property Tax Increase In Mayor's Proposed Budget
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has proposed a 53-cent property tax increase as part of this year's budget-- the first in his tenure as Mayor.
The proposed increase, which would generate about $100 million in new annual revenue, was announced as part of Mayor Dean's $1.71 billion budget during his fifth annual State of Metro Address on Tuesday morning.
"Without it, we could lay off 200 police officers, 200 firefighters, 200 teachers, close all four regional community centers, all five regional libraries — and still not come close to making up even half of what the tax rate adjustment will generate," Mayor Dean said.
The tax increase would translate to homeowners as about $16 a month, or $192 per year, for the median home price of $145,400.
It would allow the city to give about 95 percent of Metro workers a four percent salary increase-- the first in three years. Department heads and some senior managers would get a two percent increase.
"Government is only as good as the people who work in it. We have great employees in Metro Government, and our goal with this proposed budget is to provide more to the people who make less and reward those who serve our government the longest," explained the mayor.
Mayor Dean said cutting back on education and public safety would be detrimental to our city.
"The consequences of not making this tax rate adjustment at this time are real," the mayor said.
He said it would be used to hire 100 new teachers in Metro-Nashville Public Schools, as well as increase the salary of new hires and add two new non-traditional schools.
"Metro Schools anticipates adding 1,700 new students to their rosters this next school year. We've had similar enrollment increases the past three years. We can't add students and not add more teachers," he said. "Student-teacher ratios directly impact the quality of learning in the classroom. This is an important investment in our students."
The new revenue would allow the city to keep 50 police officers who were hired with a federal grant, provide staff and equipment to operate the new DNA crime lab, and fund two new positions at the District Attorney's Office to specifically handle domestic violence cases.
The proposal also calls to reduce the overall budget for other city departments by $3 million.
Even with the tax increase, Mayor Dean said the tax rate will remain lower than it was when he took office in 2007.
The budget is $124.4 million more than the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
"We need to govern for where our city is going to be in 10, 20 years from now. And if we have the courage to make the right decisions – not the easy decisions, but the right decisions – that will be an even greater place than it is today," he added.
Mayor Dean also unveiled a capital spending plan, which is the first since 2010.
"The tax rate adjustment also allows us to make significant headway on a long list of deferred, but much-needed, renovations and expansions to Metro School buildings," said Mayor Dean..
It would include the renovation and/or expansion of eight Metro Schools, as well as adding a gymnasium at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School.
It would also include investments in sidewalks, bikeways, riverfront development, continued expansion of greenways and park improvements. It also proposes a new Bellevue library and the expansion of the Bus Rapid Transit services to Murfreesboro Road.
Metro finance director Rich Riebeling presented the proposed budget to members of Metro Council Tuesday afternoon.
"While the economy is improving, and we are seeing some increases in revenue, that growth is not sufficient, alone, to keep up with the needs of the city," Riebeling told council.
After hearing what the Dean administration planned on spending money on in the coming fiscal year, Councilman Robert Duvall had concerns about the proposed increase in property taxes. He said the majority of his constituents are against the idea.
"I'm totally opposed to it. I'm totally 100% with the people that I represent. There's no question where they stand, not a single person has contacted me and said they are in support of a tax increase and we really need one," Duvall said.
Council member Edith Langster was not against the idea of the rate hike after hearing the budget proposal.
"No I am not opposed to it, my mind is open, everything is on the table. It's time for me to do my part with my constituents, talk to them, look at the budget," according to Langster.
NewsChannel 5 took the proposed budget plan to the Sylvan Heights area of Nashville. Residents there did not like the idea of increasing property taxes.
"The extra $20 a month, we'll probably not notice that. I am sure some people will, that's a lot of money. But to me it's just, I think they need to take a hard look at where they're spending the revenue that's currently being generated," explained Kevin Estes.
Others said the economy has not recovered enough to raise property taxes.
"You look at gas prices, up high. I mean, come on. You spend almost $200 a week for gas, back and forth. You know, take that $20 and put it on gas," said Lloyd Thompson.
Metro Council still has to debate the proposed spending plan, and the proposed tax increase before it becomes a reality.