Murfreesboro City Council Raises Taxes Again

The Easy Button

On Thursday June 12th, the Murfreesboro city council passed a 35% property tax increase. The council has reportedly been working on this budget since February, but only revealed the plan and the proposed property tax increase in May. Since then, there have been at most three solicitations for public comment. Through all of this time, spending cuts were not entertained, or even mentioned. Not once. Clearly, the process has not been an exercise in transparency.

More detailed analyses of the budget itself have revealed a bevy of wasteful projects, as well as projects that went drastically over budget. The folks over at the non-partisan TN Rising have published a great article, as well as a budget analysis. The council attempts to justify these excesses by appealing to our emotions. Feel good projects like the Miracle Field are "the best $5 million the city has ever spent."

When asked about spending cuts and the tax increase, several council members had the gall to offer up the following: "We have to be able to fund police, fire, and EMS." Surely essentials like police, fire, and EMS should be funded first? Before pet projects? Parks and rec cost us ~$15-16 million in past years, this year it is over ~$17 million. The answer given? These things are necessary to attract corporations and their jobs.


There was one positive thing that happened that night, but at first blush it came across as pure good old boy cronyism. Craig Tidwell, city planner, brought a friend up from Arizona. Jim Coulson, economic planning advisor, gave a presentation before the council. While initially skeptical, we quickly realized that everything Mr. Coulson said to the council was completely opposed to the actions that have been taken for at least the last ten years. The sad thing is that the council themselves never seemed to catch on.

You can see in the livestream video posted on the city government Facebook page several extremely uncomfortable question and answer exchanges between council and the economic advisor. Council Smotherman attempted to divine why the baby boomers aren't leaving the workforce so that the younger generations can join. A few minutes later, Council Smotherman asked whether, when courting businesses to bring jobs to Murfreesboro, "having the husband bring the wife to town was likely to result in an arrangement".

Every person in the audience was either mildly disgusted, or embarrassed at his ignorance.

Jim's answer was, in essence: quality of life doesn't matter. Green spaces, tennis courts, golf courses, community centers, etc, don't matter to businesses. What matters is what value you offer to businesses looking to invest, and whether your policies enable them to thrive.  Low taxes, few regulations, few zoning requirements, and research to find out what they are actually looking for. Provide a business friendly environment, not a carte blanc.

If you live in Murfreesboro, you've seen the writing on the wall for a while. We need to accept some hard truths:

  1. Murfreesboro is in a bubble right now.

  2. The city council is responsible for inflating this bubble.

  3. This property tax is a band aid that will not ultimately stave off the bust.

  4. Murfreesboro is not business-friendly, it is crony friendly.

  5. Spending is not prioritized toward essential services.

  6. City council does not understand how operational cost centers and operational revenue centers interact.

Mayor McFarland wondered aloud, in context of several failed proposals over the years, what incentives other municipalities are offering to businesses to secure commitments. The answer? "There's no incentive that can make a bad location look good." There you have it: the city council has made our city look bad, not just to us, but to business interests that could bring REAL growth to Murfreesboro.

Now is the time to get involved. We plan to run several candidates in the city and county elections in this cycle. We will be publishing our Innovate: 2020 platform as the new year approaches, and we ask for YOUR help. Social media allows us to share and spread information, and you can help us be more effective. Forward this email to your friends and family. Please consider donating, even if it is only your time.  Whether or not you are a Libertarian, we all want a city that is vibrant, alive, and future ready. Help us make it so!