Metro Council fails to pass substitute budget including property tax hike

Posted at 7:42 AM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-19 08:51:33-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Council members voted not to approve a proposed budget that featured 15.8% property tax increase.

The final vote was 20-18 with one council member abstaining. The bill needed 21 votes to pass. Now Mayor David Briley's proposed budget will go into effect.

Immediately after the vote, several angry Metro teachers and employees stormed out of Metro Council chambers. They gathered in the hall where the said they deserved bigger raises, and they were disappointed by the vote. One person yelled "see you at the polls."

The Council considered four substitute budget proposals during Tuesday's meeting, and three of which included property tax increases. There was more than two hours of debate before the final vote.

The four budget proposals were narrowed down to one. Council member Bob Mendes withdrew his substitute budget, and Council Member Russ Pulled did, as well. Council Member Steve Glover's substitute budget was rejected by a vote of 4 to 35. The substitute budget backed by Council Member Tanaka Vercher was the only proposal left for consideration.

Vercher's proposal would have increased property taxes by 15.8%, provided 3% raises to Metro employees, an additional $50 million for Metro schools and 4% raises for employees, $6.1 million for transit, and funding for 9 new firefighters and 20 Metro police officers.

Council Member Vercher said she believed it was the best possible option after hearing feedback from across the community. She felt it set the city on the right path.

Throughout the debate, several council members said they needed more time to review the proposal. Council Member Jeremy Elrod suggested deferring a vote on the budget one more week, but the idea was rejected.

Mayor Briley’s $2.33 billion proposed budget is a $101.5 million overall increase over the current year. It does not contain a property tax increase. It features a $28.2 million increase for Metro Nashville Public Schools’ operating budget and a 3% raise for Metro employees. It also calls for all full-time Metro employees to make at least $15 an hour, but this does not apply to Metro school employees. Starting pay for Metro police officers would be increased by 6.4%.

Mayor Briley has said repeatedly he is opposed to any property tax increase. In a statement released Friday he said: “A property tax increase requires an open public dialogue with time for residents to ask questions and get answers. This conversation needs to include clear facts about why we need the increase and where the dollars would go.”

Since Mayor Briley’s proposed budget was first presented in May, Metro teachers and other district employees have been critical of the plan. The district is asking for $76.7 million increase in funding, and 10% raises for teachers and support staff. They argue this is necessary to provide the best resources for teachers and students.

MNPS teachers and employees have held several rallies and attended budget discussion to make their views known.

Nashville has not had a property tax increase since 2012.

Activists marched to the Metro Courthouse to protest the budget in hopes of getting full funding.

Mayor Briley's budget will go into effect July 1.