Council members voted 20-18 for the substitute operating budget, sponsored by Budget and Finance Committee Chairperson Tanaka Vercher, which would have raised property taxes by 15.8%, or $0.498 per $100 of assessed value. The budget failed to reach a 21-vote majority, resulting in the default approval of Mayor David Briley's $2.33 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-2020.
The substitute budget included a 3% cost-of-living raise for Metro Nashville employees, a 4% raise and step-increase for Metro Nashville Public Schools employees and funding for new police and fire positions.
"This substitute budget is a combination of work from our budget hearings, budget work sessions … wish list items and responses from the people we serve,” Vercher said June 18 prior to budget debates. “This budget reflects the priorities of the city; it’s not empty rhetoric.”
Briley’s budget supports a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for Metro Nashville employees, including teachers, and provides a $15 minimum hourly wage for full-time employees on Metro Nashville's general pay plan. The budget, a 4.55% increase over the current fiscal year, does not fully fund WeGo Transit, which is proposing bus service cuts due to an $8.7 million budget shortfall.
“While not perfect, my budget does all of this without raising taxes this year,” Briley said in a statement June 14. “I know there’s more work to do, but it’s a strong start and an indication of where we are headed. All residents need time to understand where these dollars would go and how they would or would not affect the services they receive from their city.”
Officials with MNPS released a statement in response to the budget June 19:
"We understand the Metro [Nashville] Council’s message, and we will work closely with the Board of Education to make best use of the resources we have been allotted. We believe in our students. We believe in our staff. We believe in our programs. And we will continue to advocate vigorously for them all," the statement read.
According to MNPS, the school board must still approve the MNPS budget, based on Metro Nashville Council's decisions. The district's priorities include employee compensation, textbooks. hourly rate increase for bus drivers and monitors, human resources and finance systems upgrades, social and emotional learning support and pre-kindergarten preservation.
Other options considered
Three additional substitute budgets, two of which also included a property tax increase, either failed or were pulled from consideration at the June 18 meeting.
At-large Council Member Bob Mendes and co-sponsor District 7 Council Member Anthony Davis abandoned a budget proposing a 16.6% property tax increase in support of Vercher’s plan. District 12 Council Member Steve Glover’s 3.6% tax hike failed 34-3, while District 25 Council Member Russ Pulley pulled his proposed budget prior to debate.
This is the second consecutive year the Metro Council narrowly rejected a property tax increase. In June 2018, then-interim Vice Mayor Sheri Weiner cast the deciding 20-19 vote to reject a budget proposal that would have increased taxes by 16%.
The current property tax rate is $3.155 per $100 valuation in the Urban Services District, or neighborhoods that receive more city services. Residents who live in cities within the General Service District, such as Belle Meade, Forest Hills and Oak Hill, pay Metro Nashville $2.755 per $100 valuation.
Briley's budget will go into effect July 1.
How council members in Southwest Nashville voted on the proposed 15.8%
Yes: Burkley Allen, Kathleen Murphy, Freddie O'Connell, Colby Sledge
No: Angie Henderson, Mina Johnson, Russ Pulley