Charter Amendment Passage Brings New Questions

A charter amendment on Tuesday’s ballot that gave Nashvillians the final approval in any property tax increases passed by more than a 3-to-1 margin. But the aftermath is raising questions from Metro Council members about the likelihood that voters would actually vote to tax themselves.

Last year Davidson County voters rejected a referendum that would have increased the sales tax and provided revenues to schools and tax relief for seniors.

Legal analysts say the amendment could get held up in court. And while it may discourage city officials from trying to raise the tax rate simply to avoid a legal battle, the amendment may not last as the final word.

Ben Cunningham, who spearheaded the effort, says the state Supreme Court has ruled that voters can change their city charters.

“The voters want the right to say, ‘Yes, I am willing and able to pay additional taxes.’ And yes, I think if the Metro Council makes a case and communicates very clearly with the voters, who are their bosses, about the need for a tax increase, then I don’t see why they wouldn’t vote for a tax increase, if the need was clear.”

The amendment doesn’t cap property taxes which can continue to grow as property values increase. But Cunningham says the rates will be subject to voter approval. He adds that the amendment’s 77-percent of the votes is a “clear mandate.”

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