The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
Trial proceedings began Monday in a case that will determine whether a referendum to repeal Nashville’s 34% property tax increase and institute other spending restrictions will go to the public for a vote in December.
Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle heard opening statements and witness testimony from co-plaintiff Duane Dominy, a signer of the referendum petition who assisted in collecting hundreds of voter petition signatures, and Davidson County Elections Administrator Jeff Roberts.
Trial proceedings are scheduled to continue through Wednesday. A decision is expected by Nov. 3 because of the constrained timeline to prepare for a potential special election.
The lawsuit was filed by 4 Good Government, a citizens group that delivered more than 20,000 petition signatures for the referendum, against the Davidson County Election Commission. The Metro Government clerk verified sufficient signatures required for a special election, but election commissioners have concerns over the way the proposal is written and asked a judge to determine whether a special election is required.
Since the Election Commission’s annual budget does not include funding for a special election, the commission would need to request funding from the Metro Government to cover the cost of the election, Roberts said during his testimony. The estimated cost for a December special election is about $800,000.
In addition to repealing the 34% property tax increase, the proposed amendment would restrict future property tax increases to 2% a year, restrict the city council’s ability to give away public land, require a public referendum on building projects not enumerated in the Metro Charter, revert facilities of professional sports teams to the people if teams leave Nashville and require Metro records be open to the public.
If adopted by the public, the measures would put the Metro Government budget significantly out of balance. The Metro Council passed a resolution last week that urged Davidson County voters to oppose the referendum, should a special election occur.