Following an hourslong debate at the June 16 meeting, Metro Nashville Council members approved the city’s fiscal year 2020-21 operating budget that will raise property taxes for the first time since 2012.

Metro Council voted 32-8 to approve a budget sponsored by Council Member Bob Mendes, the budget and finance chair. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, includes a 34% property tax rate increase, or $1.066 per $100 of assessed value.

Overall, the $1.066 rate increase will bring the total property tax rate from $3.155 to $4.221 per $100 of assessed value in the Urban Services District, according to the budget.

For a home appraised at $219,900—the median home value for Davidson County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates—a homeowner will see a tax bill increase of about $586 per year under the new rate.

Mayor John Cooper's proposed budget would have increased the property tax rate by about 32%, or $1 per $100 of assessed value.

"The crisis budget approved tonight stabilizes Metro’s finances and maintains essential services," Cooper said in a statement on social media immediately following the vote. "The large tax increase is something I would not have considered were we not facing Nashville’s greatest financial challenge. ... The FY2021 budget process is proof positive that here in Nashville, we can still have collaborative working relationships in our politics. The end result, a budget built on compromise and full of tough choices, provides stable financial footing for our city’s future."

Budget highlights

In addition to raising property taxes, the budget includes $2.1 million for a full deployment of body-worn cameras among Metro Nashville Police Department officers; $450,000 to open community centers on Saturday mornings; $3.5 million for the Metro Arts Commission; and funding for a chief diversity officer and a workforce diversity manager.

Additionally, an amendment sponsored by Council Member Zulfat Suara redirects $8.2 million from Metro Nashville Public Schools' undesignated fund balance to fund step pay increases for school employees.

Prior to approving Mendes’ budget, council members voted down a budget sponsored by Council Member Steve Glover, which would have included a wheel tax increase and various cuts to nearly 50 departments or programs. Council Member Freddie O’Connell withdrew his budget proposal, which would have relied on federal grants to replace property tax revenue, according to budget documents.

Increased police funding

A budget amendment sponsored by Council Member Russ Pulley included in the final spending plan increased funding for the MNPD by $2.6 million. Officials said the MNPD needs the additional funding to hire 48 recruit positions.

Earlier in the meeting, some council members proposed amendments that would have cut funding for the police department, including Council Member Ginny Welsch's proposal to reduce MNPD funding by $108 million and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office by $3.5 million. Welsch's amendment did not receive council approval.

However, Pulley's amendment also eliminated step increases for Metro employees, according to officials. City employees will still receive a 1% cost-of-living raise.

"The reason I do support this amendment, even though it does reduce step raises, is that the administration has done a very good job of doing what they can to keep Metro employees paid. ... The fact that we can keep our employees employed and not laid off or furloughed is a pretty big deal," Pulley said at the meeting.