Nashville residents weigh true cost of multi-billion dollar tran - WSMV News 4

Nashville residents weigh true cost of multi-billion dollar transit plan

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With Nashville's transit referendum on the ballot in May, many people are questioning what exactly residents would pay for and how much money would leave their wallets.

Tennessee already has one of the highest sales taxes in the country, and now the city is looking to raise it another one-percent to pay for transit, which means building more buses, sidewalks and a light rail will cost residents and visitors in the checkout line.

"This is the most important spending decision that the people of Nashville will make in my lifetime," said At-Large Metro Council Member John Cooper.

Cooper voted Tuesday in favor of giving Davidson County voters the all-in total for the transit plan of nearly $9 billion, including the $5.4 billion capital cost to build the system. 

The bulk of the money raised is expected to come from four tax categories, including sales, hotel/motel, business and rental-car taxes. 

News4 asked some Nashville residents if they would want to pay higher sales tax for transit.

"No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't," said Dalton Thompson. "I think the plan was rushed. I think there are other ways to finance it."

Nashville resident Caroline Brannon said she would have no problem paying extra when she shops. 

"I think it will be great because driving on this road every single morning makes me not want to drive anymore," said Brannon. "It makes me want to fly to work because the traffic is just so terrible around here."

According to the transit plan, anyone who shops in Davidson County would pay a half-cent more in sales tax the first five years and then a full penny starting in 2023. 

For example, a $200 hotel stay would cost you an extra 50 cents the first five years and then 75 cents starting in 2023, from a 0.25 percent hotel/motel tax and 0.375 percent tax respectively. 

Local business owners would pay 20 percent more in taxes, and anyone who rents a car in the county would pay an extra 20 percent.

"Really no transit plan in the country makes money," said Councilman Cooper. "We're not expecting it to, so you're going to have to fund it out of these tax dollars."

The plan also looks to get federal and state funds and use debt to pay for transit. 

More public meetings are expected ahead of the May referendum vote.

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