NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It will be late October before Nashvillians know if they will be able to vote to repeal Nashville's 34% property tax hike.
Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle set a trial date of Oct. 26 during a hearing held Friday morning.
More than 20,000 people in Nashville signed a petition saying they want to vote on a charter amendment that would roll back Metro's 34% property tax increase to just 2%.
The group behind the petition drive - 4GoodGovernment - thought it would be simple, that the Davidson County Election Commission would set a date for the vote once it verified there were enough signatures on the petitions.
Instead the election commission chose to sue the citizens group. It didn't want to spend $800,000 on a special election. Metro lawyers said even if the referendum passes, it isn't enforceable anyway. They say under state law Metro Council sets the tax rate, not the voters.
On Friday, Lyle sorted out what issues will be decided during the trial later this month.
"As we see it, this is a very simple case," said attorney Jim Roberts, who represents the citizens group.
Roberts said the issue is whether the election commission should be forced to hold a vote.
But there are complications. Would the vote be legally enforceable? Who would be the parties to the suit? The election commission is one party. It has hired its own lawyer to represent them, retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Bill Koch.
Will Metro also be party to the suit? There's a lot at stake because if the referendum passes, Metro said it will lose more than $330 million in tax revenue for a fiscal year that is almost half over.
"We have to show injury. This is clear injury here," said Metro lawyer Bob Cooper.
Mayor John Cooper, no relation to the city's attorney, has said the city would be forced to make drastic cuts if the charter amendment passes.
Lyle told the attorneys the civil lawsuit must be decided in the next two weeks in order to give the election commission time to prepare the ballots in the event that a vote is held in December.