Nashville could learn about property tax increases from other areas


April 27, 2020 11:44AM

Many of us living in Nashville are aware of the terrible budget situation that past mayoral administrations have gotten us into. Unfortunately for Mayor Cooper, he inherited massive amounts of debt from previous administrations’ poor spending habits. So now, a man who was opposed to increasing property taxes is warning us that a sharp one is coming. As we look to the future of what could be a massive tax hike in Nashville, what can we learn about the negative effects of such increases from other areas of the state and country?

I recently spoke with Stephen Cascioppo, a Beacon ambassador who recently moved to Tennessee from California after a long career in government. As we all know, California’s property taxes make Nashville’s look like chump change, but Cooper’s proposal prompted Stephen to contact his elected representatives with a warning about the effects of an increase like this. His primary concern—and one that he’s voiced to his councilman and the mayor himself—is that the administration has jumped to raising taxes as opposed to looking everywhere it can to cut spending first. “From a taxpayer perspective and coming from a career working in California government, the last thing anyone in the government wants to do is raise taxes, but sometimes you have to,” Stephen said. 

“In this case, our elected officials have not proven to me that they have done everything they can to become efficient and cut spending.” Stephen and his family didn’t move to Tennessee because they wanted more high taxes. “We moved here because it’s more fiscally responsible. Our officials need to start showing us that.”

When irresponsible spending continues and officials raise taxes anyway, taxpayers’ trust in them erodes quickly. We can learn a lot about hardships that Nashvillians will face if a large property tax does hit in the near future by looking even closer to home. Jack Smith* has lived in Rhea County, Tennessee for nearly fifteen years and is active in his community, regularly relaying his opinions on certain issues to his elected officials. But there is one issue about which he feels particularly passionate: fiscal responsibility. Mr. Smith is just as concerned as anyone else is about city and county debt, but he is equally concerned about the hardship that tax increases will put on citizens who are not responsible for getting cities into debt. 

While a property tax increase to him will be a “nuisance,” many in his community would suffer greatly if property taxes were continued to be increased in Rhea County. In fact, one of Mr. Smith’s neighbors—who is a widow—was forced to relocate due to the most recent property tax increase that hit their area. That is, unfortunately, the case for many individuals across Tennessee, especially those on fixed incomes who may not have accounted for tax increases when projecting for the future. 

Keeping governments solvent is very important, but governments don’t create revenue. They rely on us to fund their programs and expenditures. The quicker we grasp that, the quicker we can start to hold them accountable when they abuse the money we’re forced to give them. And at the rate that local lawmakers are attempting to raise property taxes, accountability from taxpayers might be the only thing that will slow them down. 

*Name changed at the request of the individual