Friday, August 12, 2005

What is Nashville voting on?

Let's go to some original documents and figure out exactly what Nashvillians will be voting on. Please note I've put some of this in BOLD in order to help you find what I think is the pertinent information.

Let's start with the actual ballot available at ftp://ftp.nashville.gov/web/vote/Sales_Tax_Ref_Election_Sample_Ballot_EV.pdf

It says:

"Shall ordinance number BL2005-665, passed by the Metropolitan County Council, which increases the local sales tax rate from two and one-fourth ( 1/4) percent to two and three-fourth (2 3/4) percent, become operative?"

And then you vote for FOR or AGAINST it.

But what does BL2005-665 say? That you'll find at http://www.nashville.gov/mc/ordinances/bl2005_665.htm and it's way more reading than that deciptively short sentence above. I really urge voters to take a few minutes and read this ordinance. I can't say this strongly enough: if you vote based on what you're reading in the papers, or what your neighbor said or what any advocacy group said you've failed in your responsibility.


Take some time and read this for yourself. I'll make it easier. I'll include it below. Print it out, highlight the questionable parts and feel absolutely free to question your council person about it. Here's the council's brand spanking new website. It's really an improvement on the previous version. If you don't know the name of your councilman (and you really ought to) click on the map link on the left and find out.

So here we go. Here's the ordinance mentioned in the ballot.

ORDINANCE NO. BL2005-665

An ordinance amending Ordinance No. 65-464, as amended by Ordinance No. 68-525, as amended by Ordinance No. 080-294, relating to the levy of a local option sales and use tax by the Metropolitan Government in accordance with the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Sections 67-6-701 through 67-6-716.

WHEREAS, the Tennessee General Assembly pursuant to Chapter 329 of the 1963 Public Acts and subsequent amendments thereto (T.C.A., §§ 67-6-701 through 67-6-716), has authorized local governments to levy a local option sales and use tax; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to referendum election held in 1965 and again in 1968 and again in 1980, the Metropolitan Government has levied a local option sales and use tax pursuant to the terms and limitations contained in T.C.A., § 67-6-701, et seq.; and

WHEREAS, T.C. A. §67-6-705 and §67-6-706 provide that the operation of the ordinance levying the local option sales tax shall be subject to approval of the voters of the Metropolitan Government by referendum; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:

SECTION 1. That Ordinance No. 65-464, as amended by Ordinance No. 68-525, as amended by Ordinance No. 080-294 of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Metropolitan Government), levying a local option sales and use tax as authorized under the provisions of Chapter 6 of Title 67 of the Tennessee Code Annotated is hereby amended by levying in the same manner and on the same privileges subject to the Retailers Sales Tax Act under T.C.A., §§ 67-6-101 through 67-6-608, which are exercised in the General Services District of the Metropolitan Government, a tax on all such privileges at a rate of two and three-quarters (2 ¾) percent; provided the tax so levied shall apply only to the first one thousand six hundred ($1,600) dollars on the sale or use of any one article of personal property. Further, the operation of this Ordinance shall be subject to the approval of the voters as required by T.C.A., § 67-6-706 and to the other provisions of T.C.A., § 67-6-701 through 67-6-716.

SECTION 2. If a majority of those voting in the election required by T.C.A., § 67-6-706 vote for the Ordinance increasing the tax pursuant to Section 1 hereof, collection of the tax levied by this Ordinance shall begin upon the effective date of the change in the local tax rate pursuant to T.C.A. §67-6-716.

SECTION 3. It having been determined by the Department of Revenue of the State of Tennessee that it is feasible for this tax to be collected by that Department, the Department of Revenue of the State of Tennessee shall collect the additional tax imposed by this Ordinance concurrently with the collection of the state tax in the same manner as the state tax is collected in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by said Department. The Finance Director of the Metropolitan Government is hereby authorized to contract with the Department of Revenue of the State of Tennessee for the collection of the additional tax by said Department and to provide in said contract that said Department may deduct from the tax collected a reasonable amount or percentage to cover the expense of the administration and collection of said tax.

SECTION 4. In the event the tax is collected by said Department, suits for the recovery of any tax illegally assessed or collected shall be brought against the Finance Director of the Metropolitan Government.

SECTION 5. A certified copy of this Ordinance as passed by the Metropolitan County Council and signed by the Metropolitan County Mayor shall be transmitted to the Department of Revenue of the State of Tennessee and the Davidson County Election Commission by the Metropolitan Clerk. This Ordinance shall also be published one time in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the Metropolitan Government prior to the election called for in Section 2 hereof.

SECTION 6. If any one or more of the provisions of this Ordinance shall ever be held by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the remaining provisions of this Ordinance shall not be affected thereby, it being the intention of the Metropolitan County Council to enact the remaining provisions of this Ordinance, notwithstanding such provisions which may be held invalid.

SECTION 7. When submitting this Ordinance levying a local option sales and use tax in the area of the Metropolitan Government to a vote of the people in an election as provided in TCA, § 67-6-706, the Davidson County Election Commission shall present the question on the ballot in substantially the following form:

Should the Ordinance of the Metropolitan County Council
increasing the local option sales and use tax in Davidson County
to two and three-quarters (2 ¾) percent become operative?

FOR SAID ORDINANCE ________________________

AGAINST SAID ORDINANCE ___________________

SECTION 8. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsored by: Diane Neighbors

Oh, what? You say it doesn't say anything about schools, or senior citizens or propety taxes? I didn't see it either.

So I asked Ben Cunningham for help. He was able to provide a link to the ordinance to provide tax relief to seniors. It's at http://www.nashville.gov/mc/ordinances/bl2005_724.htm

And here is that ordinance.

SUBSTITUTE ORDINANCE NO. BL2005-724

An ordinance establishing the Seniors Tax Relief Grant Program for the purpose of providing assistance to elderly resident tax-payers of Davidson County and to allocate and appropriate the additional sales tax revenue that will be received if the voters approve an increase in the local option sales tax.

WHEREAS, Nashville's strong economy produces increasing values of residential and other real property in Davidson County; and

WHEREAS, this economic strength is expected to continue further increasing property values; and

WHEREAS, this often results in aged persons who purchased real property in Davidson County years ago facing increased tax burdens; and

WHEREAS, aged citizens are often limited in their sources and amounts of income; and

WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County that its aged residents are able to remain in their residences, remain in their neighborhoods, and continue to contribute to diverse communities; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County can maintain the diversity of age of its residents, and preserve the role of aged persons in the County's myriad neighborhoods, by ensuring that aged home-owners' net tax burdens do not exceed such persons' ability to pay them; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County will enact an increase in the local option sales and use tax, with the same to be approved by the electors, to take effect on or before January 1, 2006; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government anticipates using twenty percent (20%) of the funds resulting from such tax increase to fund a program for assistance to elderly resident tax-payers of Davidson County and eighty percent (80%) of the funds resulting from such tax increase to be allocated to Metro Schools.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:

Section 1. There is hereby created a program known as the "Seniors Tax Relief Grant Program" for the purpose of providing grants of assistance to elderly resident tax-payers of Davidson County.

Section 2. Program Structure

A. Eligibility. An individual is eligible to participate in the program who:
1. Is at least sixty-five (65) years of age as of December 31 of the year in which the tax is owed;
2. Resides in Davidson County by July 1 of the year in which the tax is owed; and
3. Applies for and receives any tax relief for which they may be eligible from the State of Tennessee, and
4. Pays real property taxes on the individual's primary residence to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

B. Amount. The amount of the grant received by an eligible participant will be:
1. The Sum of:
a. The total amount of property taxes, not including penalties and interest, paid by the eligible participant and any co-owner(s) on the primary residence, not to exceed the property taxes due on a property with an appraised value of $200,000;
b. Plus the estimated amount of local sales tax paid by the eligible participant and any co-owner(s);
c. Plus the amount of the motor vehicle regulatory license fee paid, not to exceed the tax paid on one non-commercial vehicle for each eligible participant and any co-owner(s), and not to exceed a total of two vehicles;
2. Less the sum of:
a. Five percent (5%) of the eligible participant's income, and
b. The amount of any other tax relief the eligible participant receives from the State of Tennessee.

C. Income and Co-owners.
1. Eligible Participant's Income. For the purpose of this grant program, the eligible participant's income shall be the income of the participant and any co-owner(s) from all sources, including but not limited to: Social Security (after Medicare is deducted); Supplemental Security Income (SSI); retirement or pension benefits; Veterans Administration benefits; worker's compensation; salaries or wages, interest or dividends (including tax exempt income that may be excluded from adjusted gross income) and any other income that is included in adjusted gross income for federal income tax purposes.
2. Co-owners. A co-owner is one who owns the property with the eligible participant and who also uses the property as his or her primary residence. Having an ineligible co-owner does not prevent an eligible participant from receiving a grant with the amount of such grant calculated as set forth above. In the event both or all co-owners are eligible participants, each eligible co-owner shall receive an equal portion of the grant amount; however, if the eligible co-owners' ownership interests are unequal, each shall receive a portion of the grant amount in proportion with his or her ownership interest.
Section 3. Distribution of Increased Sales Tax Revenue.
A. Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2006. If prior to January 1, 2006 the voters of Davidson County approve an increase in the local sales tax from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent, the Director of Finance shall allocate for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006, the first $12 million in additional sales tax collections to the Senior Tax Relief Grant Program created pursuant to this Ordinance. However, in no event may the portion of total local option sales tax revenue distributed for school purposes be less than 50%, as provided by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-6-712(a)(1). Said additional funds shall be combined with appropriations for tax relief included in the approved budget ordinance for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006 and are appropriated for the Senior Tax Relief Grant Program created by this ordinance. All funds received in additional sales tax collections resulting from the increase in the local sales tax to 2.75 percent shall be allocated to the GSD General Purpose School Fund.
B. Subsequent Fiscal Years. For all subsequent fiscal years, it is the intent of the Metropolitan Government to allocate funds received pursuant to this increase in the sales tax rate (exclusive of funds not retained by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-6-712(a)(2)(B)) as follows:
1. 80% for school purposes; and,
2. 20% for grants to senior residents.

Section 4. It is the intent of this ordinance that the Senior Tax Relief Grant Program grants be made during the first calendar quarter of 2006 to assist Seniors in meeting their tax obligations for 2005.

Section 5. The Trustee of the Metropolitan Government is directed to administer the Senior Tax Relief Grant Program in accordance with the provisions of this ordinance and such rules and procedures as the Trustee may establish as provided in this ordinance.

Section 6. The Trustee is authorized to establish such rules and procedures as the Trustee may deem necessary and appropriate for the implementation of the Program, so long as the rules and procedures are consistent with and in furtherance of the foregoing provisions. Rules and procedures adopted pursuant to this provision shall be subject to approval by resolution of the Metropolitan Council.

Section 7. The provisions of this Ordinance shall be subject to annual renewal pursuant to the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 5-9-112.

Section 8. All applicable penalties, fines, and interest requirements established by local, state, and federal law, both criminal and civil, shall apply to representations made in order to receive a grant pursuant to this program.

Section 9. The provisions of this ordinance shall take effect upon the certification by the Election Commission that the increase in the local sales tax to 2.75 percent has been approved by the voters of Davidson County prior to January 1, 2006.

Section 10. This ordinance shall take effect from and after its final passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsored by: Diane Neighbors, Amanda McClendon, Brenda Gilmore

What makes me real nervous is the use of the words "anticipates" and "intent". I've read enough legislation to know that bills say will and shall for a reason. I'm assuming that " intent" is used for a reason also.

It does say "shall" in the bold section above that says it "All funds received in additional sales tax collections resulting from the increase in the local sales tax to 2.75 percent shall be allocated to the GSD General Purpose School Fund."

Would anyone be surprised if the general budget amount that had usually gone to schools was subsequently reduced because the schools will be getting this increased sales tax revenue? Would anyone be surprised if that mean't we couldn't ever really reduce the sales tax amount because the school budget would be impacted?

Finally, would you be surprised to learn that according to Elections Administrator Ray Barrett in today's Tennessean that it's going to cost $450,000 to hold this election? It's enough to make you re-consider a poll tax. Everyone bring a dollar for the collection jar when you go to vote so we can pay for maneuvering by politicans who don't want to be blamed for failing to lead and for pandering to voters and special interest groups.

1 comment:

Bob K said...

Kay,
Great job putting all this together.