NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro Nashville’s 34% property tax increase was declared Pork of the Year winner for 2020, The Beacon Center announced on Tuesday.

The Beacon Center’s Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence and flat out waste, according to the organization’s news release.

At a time when Nashville is among the hottest cities in the country and has skyrocketing tax revenue, the city is somehow still in massive debt. Instead of making the changes necessary to fix the problem, such as reforming its city pension system, enacting a spending cap or getting rid of lifetime health insurance benefits for Council members, the mayor and City Council raised taxes on hard-working Nashvillians, the Pork Report stated.

"People in Nashville are suffering. They've shut down a lot of businesses for COVID-related things," said Mark Cunningham, Vice President of Communications for Beacon Center.

The Mayor's Office told News4 that Metro Government did make $50 million in cuts in its budget and instituted cuts and freezes in the 2020 budget.

"No cash. No rainy day fund. Zero," Mayor John Cooper said earlier this year. "We were going to have trouble paying policemen in July."

"I think they're picking and choosing what they're going to cut to scare people into agreeing with them," said Cunningham.

The Beacon Center also highlighted finance guru Dave Ramsey receiving $2 million in tax dollars to expand his Franklin headquarters and the state awarding an $8 million no-bid contract for COVID-19 masks.

The Beacon Center limited the report to the top three examples of government waste from each Grand Division, top three examples of government waste from the state and the top three worst Pork Report entries of all time.

"From Memphis to Johnson City, there is no shortage of government waste in Tennessee this year," said Cunningham in a news release. "We hope the state and local governments will take this report to heart and work to be more responsible when it comes to spending our hard-earned tax dollars."

In Middle Tennessee, Nashville was also pointed out that the city may be losing thousands of dollars by allowing valet stands to use parking spots with meters and not collecting the full amount of lost revenue.

According to the report, Nashville collects on average over $6,000 for each metered parking space. Each valet stand takes up about three spaces, which is over $18,000 per stand. The law does state that the business that’s utilizing the valet stand must pay the city the amount that is lost plus a $50 fee per stand. The report said the city isn’t collecting the money.

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In Clarksville, the Pork Report criticizes the Montgomery County Commission for approving the construction of a multi-purpose event center with two ice rinks and a $130 million plan to borrow money to pay for it.

“Clarksville leaders should focus on core government activities, not leisure activities,” the Pork Report stated. “The private sector is there to meet these needs and taxpayers should not be forced to shoulder years of debt for ‘build it and they will come’ plans.”

Other 2020 Pork Report entries included:

  • The city of Chattanooga spending over $6 million on unused street lights.
  • The city of Knoxville and Knox County bailing out Zoo Knoxville.
  • The Memphis EDGE board using tax dollars to fund the failed TV show “Bluff City Law” even after it was canceled.

The 2020 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars.

Click to read the 2020 Pork Report.

 
 
 
 
 

Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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