The Center Square [By Vivian Jones] –
Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson warned Nashville Metro Councilmembers if the city fails to maintain a balanced budget in light of a referendum to repeal the 34 percent property tax increase, the state could step in to make financial decisions for Nashville.
Rejection of the property tax hike by taxpayers in December would create a $332 million mid-year budget deficit, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said.
If the city fails to take measures to maintain a balanced budget despite the possibility of a referendum, the comptroller will take over financial decisions for the city as a “last resort,” Wilson told the council Tuesday night.
Should the state intervene, Wilson said finance decisions would be submitted by the city, reviewed and approved based on availability of funds on a weekly basis.
“Metro would be kind of like a teenager coming to their parent asking for $20 to go to the movies,” Wilson said. “You do not want that, and I can guarantee you that I don’t, nor does anyone in my office.”
Wilson advised councilmembers to begin making spending cuts immediately.
“In order to be prepared for the possibility of this referendum becoming effective, you must begin taking action as soon as possible – as soon as tonight,” Wilson said. “Each day you wait, the cuts become deeper. Action is urgently needed now.”
In the past six months, Wilson acknowledged, the council made significant steps to balance the city’s budget.
“As it stands today I’m satisfied that this government meets those conditions,” Wilson said. “The train is on the track, but there is a dangerous curve ahead.”
Echoing statements in a press release Monday, Cooper warned if voters adopt the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act proposal in December, critical services such as trash collection, recycling and emergency services will suffer dramatically.
“Our progress as a great city will end,” Cooper said.
Nashville voters will consider a proposal Dec. 5 that would repeal the 34 percent property tax hike, restrict future property tax increases to 2 percent without approval by public referendum and impose several other restrictions on spending by the Metro Council.