It’s official: Nashville voters will get the chance to decide whether to raise taxes to pay for the mayor’s plan for mass transit.
The Metro Council finalized a referendum Tuesday night so that increases to four kinds of taxes will appear on the ballot on May 1.
There was one last-minute change: The council decided to add language to the ballot that shows not only the initial construction cost for light rail and bus improvements ($5.4 billion) but also estimated expenses through the year 2032 ($8.9 billion).
“This is the largest project in Metro history. We need to be transparent with the voters,” said Councilman Jim Shulman.
Some members fiercely opposed showing both numbers, arguing that the larger amount is a "politicized" figure and could add confusion. But the 21-16 vote favored including both.
The council’s five at-large members, who represent the entire county, backed the wording change. That group includes Shulman and Councilman Bob Mendes, who said it would be a disservice to voters to block one number, especially after weeks of very public debate on the matter.
“We need to go ahead and include the words,” he said.
Mendes also bristled at suggestions that the rewording arrived late in the process.
“The reason why this is 'last minute' is because compromises come at the last minute,” he said.
The debate over transit included one mention of Mayor Megan Barry, who has been the public face of the transit plan but who is now embroiled in a pair of investigations. She has vowed to pursue her agenda, and Councilman Jeremy Elrod said city business should not be slowed.
“There’s a lot going on at the city … we have an investigation going on … but a No. 1 issue we need to deal with is traffic, is transportation, is the basic thing of making sure folks can get around town in an efficient manner,” he said.
Following the vote, the Metro Transit Authority issued a statement in support, characterizing Davidson County as having “reached a breaking point.”
“The expansion of public transit service is an important step in addressing this issue that affects all who live, work and visit Nashville,” the MTA said.