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Discussion on property tax increase turns to calls to defund police

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 23:47:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Whether it be by phone, or in person, hundreds of Nashvillians called for the Metro Council defund the Metro Police Department.

The Metro Council hosted a public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting, where people could weigh in on Mayor John Cooper’s proposed budget which features an almost 32% property tax increase.

However, the majority of the feedback didn’t center on the tax increase, instead, opposition to the budget focused on funding for the Metro Police Department and Jail.

Due to social distancing requirements, people who wanted to address the council lined up six feet apart. The microphone and podium were cleaned in between each speaker. The majority of the participants chose to call into the meeting from home. At one point, the phone system was overloaded with calls.

Some people who became frustrated with the phone system, ended up coming to the meeting in person.The majority of people who spoke said they felt the proposed budget commits too much money to the Metro Police Department and jail, and instead, more money should be provided for affordable housing, schools and non-profits.

“An investment in education and our communities is profitable for Nashville in the long run,” said one woman.

“If you are unable to fund the school board’s budget, do the best you can,” said another man.

Mayor Cooper’s $2.447 billion budget includes raising the city's property tax by almost 32% to recover from the financial impact of the March tornado and the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Metro Finance Department estimates that the city will experience an estimated revenue decline of more than $470 million due to the tornado and pandemic.

Cooper said the 32% property tax hike would bring the current rate of $3.155 up to $4.155, which is still the lowest property tax rate of all major Tennessee cities. A homeowner would pay an extra $750 a year for a $300,000 home. The last property tax increase in Metro Nashville was in 2012.

Supporters said while it is a difficult decision to raise taxes, it will help the city remain stable financially.

“Essential Metro services are desperately needed in these times,” said former Metro Council Member Jeremy Elrod, who spoke before the council. “The alternative is a Metro government that won’t be able to meet the needs of the community and its citizens.”

“We want to thank our Mayor for making a decision to increase the water rate and property tax to finally meet our city’s needs,” said another man.

The budget is scheduled to come up for a third and final vote at the June 16 Metro Council Meeting. An operating budget must be approved by June 30.