HCA tax incentives, Metro buyout to headline council meeting

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 4:12pm

Metro Council members tonight will consider a historically large tax incentive proposal, as well as a buyout program for Metro workers, along with hearing from the public on a variety of zoning issues.

Headlining the agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting is a final vote on one of the largest economic incentive packages ever offered by the city. At an estimated total of $66 million in tax abatements and cash grants over as long as 20 years, the proposal linked to Nashville-based HCA’s planned relocation of two of its headquarters to the vacant West End Summit property has sparked further discussion of Mayor Karl Dean’s focus on tax breaks as a strategy for economic and community development.

While some have argued that the jobs and tax revenue created by companies to which such deals are offered results in a net gain for the city, others see them as counterproductive. Those skeptical of the strategy say that money spent on tax breaks meant to lure companies to Nashville, or keep them here, should instead be put toward the things that are ultimately more important to them and their employees, like education.

Making its second of three appearances before the council will also be a Dean administration proposal for a buyout program for Metro employees. As proposed, the program would offer employees who would otherwise qualify for retirement $700 for each year of service with the city. About 1,590 Metro employees would be eligible for the program, according to the mayor’s office. They would have until Jan. 18 to accept the buyout and would have to leave their jobs by Feb. 28.

When the proposal was first announced, Dean framed the program as a chance for Metro departments to find savings, saying it would give “department heads additional flexibility to reassess personal needs.”

A complete list of bills up for public hearing Tuesday night are posted on the Metro Council website.