Nashville is undergoing a crisis. The city was about to recover from the aftereffects of the tornado. However, the Coronavirus epidemic shut down the local economy. Past mayors rejected property tax increase even when the spending soared. The aftermath of all of this is the city’s reserves have depleted.
Now, Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s budget proposal could see 32% property tax hike. On Tuesday, Cooper pushed for a 31.7% tax hike and deep cuts. The city’s financial future is in jeopardy, and the mayor addressed this as a “crisis budget.” Due to the unexpected crisis that obliterated the critical revenue resource, the mayor’s office delayed budget presentations. Instead, they assessed the impact of the disasters that hit the city.
Cooper stated that Nashville needs to “slow down, cut back, trim, slice, and save.”
According to the Tennessean, the mayor’s $2.44 billion budget proposal is $115 million more than 2020’s budget. The increase focuses on replenishing the city’s funds as two calamities have drained it. This budget, according to Cooper, will prevent layoffs and preserve services. However, it would still require substantial cuts in several areas.
Cooper ruled out plans of raises and cost of living adjustments. Schools will receive a relatively flat budget allocation. The district’s request for an increase in budget has been denied. This is despite the district confronting a midyear budget cut at the behest of the city. City grants to local nonprofits and other discretionary funding are cut in half.
The city’s proposed budget must be approved by June 30. The new fiscal year will start on July 1.
A fierce debate will likely take place as city leaders decide on what’s next. According to Cooper, rejecting his sharp tax hike will result in mass layoffs of city employees. He believes that there is no other way to do this. A revenue loss of over $470 million is expected over a 16-month-period due to the pandemic. He also stated that federal aid wouldn’t be enough to close the gap.
Chair of the finance committee council member Bob Mendes agreed to the need for a property tax increase. In his statement, he said, “The reality is that there is no way to avoid a rate increase this year. I’m glad to see the mayor acknowledge this. My concern is whether this budget is too rough on Metro employees and the important nonprofits that serve Nashvillians.”
Cooper’s proposed tax hike could be the first one since 2012.
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