Hearing on proposed property tax referendum in recess, will resume Tuesday morning

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Posted at 8:55 AM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 21:39:54-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — This week, a judge is hearing from people on both sides of a heavily disputed property tax referendum in Nashville that one group wants to put before voters.

Some want it on a special election ballot this year, but the Davidson County Election Commission says, they're not sure if they can even legally do that.

That's why three days are being set aside in court for a judge to learn about this property tax referendum and decide if it can be put up for a vote.

The hearing started on Monday morning and has since gone to recess. It will pick back up on Tuesday for closing arguments.

Earlier this year, Metro Council approved a 34% property tax hike in Davidson County as the city is going through some major financial obstacles.

But a citizen group, 4GoodGovernment, is seeking a special election to roll it back.

Just last week, Metro Council approved a resolution showing their opposition to that referendum. Nashville Mayor John Cooper worries if the property tax is struck down, it could leave the city with a more than $300 million budget shortfall.

During the hearing, Metro Nashville attorneys argued repealing the tax hike would only "cause chaos and confusion," adding that trying to repeal the tax hike will cost taxpayers.

Attorneys representing 4GoodGovernment said they have everything they need to do based on the law. They said the burden of proof is on Metro and the county to see if anything put forward is unconstitutional.

While comparing a typical ballot initiative to the petition drafted by the group, Metro attorneys said the language is just plain confusing. Bussell said there are paragraphs that directly contradict one another, saying for something that could have such a profound effect on the city's budget, you can't leave the voters wondering what they are actually voting for.

Attorneys representing 4GoodGovernement want no change to the petition, saying 27,000 people already agreed to what was proposed. Metro attorneys responded to this saying it will only do more harm than good to put this on the ballot.

"This evidence is important because as the proof will show, not only is the petition atypical and so poorly drafted, that we don't even know where it belongs in the Metro charter," said Metro Nashville Attorney Allison Bussell. "It seeks to accomplish by referendum, myriad actions that cannot be accomplished in that matter."

Attorneys representing the Davidson County Commissioners Office said it will cost the city as much as $800,000 to hold the special election.

Knowing they suspect more lawsuits pending the decision by the judge, attorneys warned taxpayers will also be on the hook for legal expenses for as long as it takes to come to a solution.

The judge is expected to make a decision by November 3. Closing arguments will begin Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Watch Monday's hearing below: