A poll commissioned by a conservative think tank found 68 percent of Davidson County voters oppose Mayor Karl Dean’s property tax increase proposal, a solid majority its leadership says is indicative of widespread resistance to the mayor’s plan.
“We have heard over and over that the public is on the mayor’s side,” Beacon Center of Tennessee CEO Justin Owen said in a statement Tuesday. “We wanted to find out for ourselves, and the results of this survey unequivocally show that despite what the mayor has been saying, taxpayers do not support his plan to increase taxes.”
Beacon, which bills itself as a Nashville-based free market think tank, said its poll of 403 likely Davidson County voters found only 21 percent support for Dean’s 53-cent property tax increase, which amounts to 13 percent higher tax payments for property owners. Hill Research Consultants conducted the poll from June 5 through June 7.
According to Beacon, the public opinion research firm posed a single question: “Metro Nashville-Davidson County Mayor Karl Dean is proposing a 13 percent property tax increase in his recommended budget for the city. The proposed budget includes a net spending increase of 7.85 percent. Please tell me if you support or oppose this proposed tax and budget plan, which is currently being debated by the Metro Council?”
Beacon claims, “Special care was taken to ensure that geographic, party affiliation, and demographic divisions of the actual electorate are properly represented in the results of the poll.”
The same conservative organization produced an alternative Metro budget proposal  last month that, among other things, would slash subsidies for public transit and public art, privatize Metro General Hospital, and keep the level of public school-spending the same. The budget’s chief goal: eliminate the need for a property tax hike.
Moving Nashville Forward, an organization led by former Councilman Erik Cole that supports Dean’s tax increase, took to Twitter Tuesday to express discontent with the poll stating, “Nobody likes higher taxes. Real debate is how we invest in the future. Just saying ‘no’ isn’t a solution.”
Tax-hike proponents have highlighted how additional tax revenue would increase the starting salaries of teachers from $35,000 to $40,000, renovate dilapidated school buildings, increase the pay of Metro workers and ensure Metro’s staffing of police personnel, among other items.
Beacon’s poll marks what is believed to be the second phone survey on a Davidson County property tax increase this year.
In January, Dean’s campaign committee hired a pollster to weigh Nashvillians’ mood  on a potential property tax hike, months before the mayor unveiled his tax proposal. The City Paper has been unable to retrieve the results of this poll.
Dean’s proposed $1.71 billion budget and property tax increase heads before the Metro Council for a final vote later this month, perhaps as early as June 19.
Last-minute public opinion polls on controversial subjects have proven ineffective in swaying council members in the past. Leading up the council’s 2010 vote on financing the Music City Center, a WSMV-TV poll  found only one in four Nashvillians supported it. The plan, however, sailed through the council by a 29-9 vote.