Property Taxes and Their High Cost to Families - America's Future Foundation

August 6, 2020

AFF CommunityPolicy

Property Taxes and Their High Cost to Families

By: Alex Armas

It’s no secret that every year, local governments look for clever ways to spend taxes on special pet projects that almost never yield a positive return on investment. And every year this fiscal irresponsibility almost always comes back to hit the pockets of hard-working individuals and families in the form of higher taxes. This year is no different, but what has changed is the economic environment and the fiscal strain that families are facing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is inconceivable that in a year where local governments should first look to cut failing programs, trim the fat of big bureaucracy, and cut outdated and redundant personnel and regulations, the first thing they look to do is raise property taxes.

In the case of Nashville, TN, the impact of fiscal irresponsibility on the city’s economy has caused the state to threaten to take control of the city’s finances. The local metro city council passed a historic 34 percent property tax hike which does nothing but attempt to fix the current situation Nashville has put itself in by extending massive tax breaks to giant commercial developers and fortune 50 companies in an already booming local economy.

The impact of this fiscal irresponsibility isn’t just maddening for individuals trying to make it in a competitive job market — it is especially sad for the families who have been living and working in Nashville for 10, 15, 20 years and whose income has likely not changed in years, or more recently been cut due to COVID-19. Now the city wants to tax those families more on the one place that should be most sacred, their home! One can see the devastation across the city as middle class families line their cars outside of schools from 10am to noon to get a free meal. Or the mom or dad who is now making ends meet by doing food and grocery delivery service in the evenings. The impact goes much deeper as many people debate what they will do if they do not return back to work at all and if they are lucky to find new jobs. Will their new salary cover the costs of a 34 percent tax hike on their home? The answer is likely no, and it doesn’t take an economic professor to figure out how harmful this is to the family unit — not just to the families fiscally, but also to the amount of time children are with their parents, and in a safe and secure environment. 

So if raising property taxes is not the solution, what is? There are multiple ways to tackle the problem, and yes, they are harder than just raising taxes. The answer is in shrinking local government, ending corporate welfare, and making smart, strategic decisions with local finances so that middle class families can also enjoy all the great things a booming economy like Nashville has to offer. Let’s hold local officials accountable for their fiscal irresponsibility and start taking back control of our cities.