Fiscal Responsibility: Smart Growth
Twenty years ago, my hometown was a much different place. City leaders at the time developed a plan to attract out-of-state developers by offering financial incentive packages. By employing tools such as deferred property tax payments and long-term city maintenance agreements they succeeded in bringing a lot of new business into the region. Tennessee’s business friendly economic policies were also a catalyst because of the reduced cost of labor, relatively low cost of living, and absence of state income tax. Nashville quickly rose to become a national model for economic development success. Since then, our city has transformed into a global tourist destination and economic center, and I believe we need to reassess the tools we used 20 years ago.
Davidson County residents just got hit with a 34% property tax increase, while many of the out- of-town developers won’t pay property taxes for several more decades. Much of the economic benefits generated by our downtown tourist district are being recaptured to cover long term debt. Our economic development plans need to be equitable, and focused on providing for and investing in the people who live here—creating better schools, more affordable housing, and reliable transit alternatives. The success of our local businesses is more important than luring the next global corporation looking to take advantage of the tax code. We can also create more economic opportunities in neighborhoods outside of downtown, by investing in the infrastructure that will spur local investment in all quadrants of our county.
As a former small-town mayor, a small business owner, and frankly—a mom, fiscal responsibility is part of my DNA. When I was elected as mayor of Oak Hill in 2014, I inherited a budget disaster. The state legislature had just cut a major revenue source and the previous mayor had let city reserves dwindle by 50%. So, when I got into office, we looked at every budget item and had to make difficult decisions, eliminating some contracts, and doing the work ourselves. To cut spending, I even eliminated my own salary. When I left office, we’d completely replenished our reserves and more. As mayor of Nashville, I will bring this same fiscal discipline to City Hall. I will work with my staff, city departments and Metro Council to conduct a full and transparent audit of our city’s ledger. My focus will be on finding more efficient and cost-effective ways to deliver quality public services.