A taxing debate

Living in Austin and working in local public affairs, you developed some immunity to the city’s unique ability to hand-wring good news into bad news. It appears Nashville may be following suit.

In surprisingly Austin-like fashion, what should have been a celebratory week in Nashville last week devolved on Friday into yet another confusing and frustrating debate about property taxes.

I don’t envy the road ahead for Cooper’s communications team, Bob Mendes or any of the other budget explainers on Council, or the local media. Trying to clearly explain state law governing reappraisals and how assessed values are different from market values and what revenue neutral¬†means for the purpose of Metro budgeting and which agency is responsible for what in terms of appraisals versus relief programs and what power and latitude the Mayor and Council actually have and…you get the point.

We live in a world where most people wake up in the morning, see a 30% chance of rain in the forecast, and announce that it’s going to rain. Add to that all of the political posturing and spin that goes into tax issues and you have a recipe for confusion in the community.

I tried to unpack some of this in something I wrote last year during the property tax debate in Nashville. Much like trying to parse the line items on a property tax bill in Texas, and explain how small the city portion is compared to a school district’s portion, most people have already tuned you out.

It’s not that most people can’t or won’t understand it. It’s just that most people don’t like paying taxes, and they really don’t like paying higher taxes–no matter what the math is and who is responsible for it.

Welcome to budget season, Nashville.

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