By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The purpose of the Urban Service District (USD) was to expand Metro Services, that were available to residents of Nashville, but not outlying suburban neighborhoods. Those services include trash pick up, curbside recycling, street lights and the addition of liquor stores. In exchange for inclusion into the USD, homeowners would agree to pay higher property taxes for new public services.
Two years ago, the representatives of 20 Districts in the City of Madison, TN, The Tennessean reported on a proposal to include neighborhoods into an expanded Urban Services District (USD).
Proponents of the USD explained that homeowners would no longer have to pay for trash pick up through a homeowners’ association (HOA) or other private pay arrangement. That, they said, would offset most of the additional costs to taxpayers. The remainder of the tax increase would be used to cover the taxpayers’ ‘fair share’ of costs of police and fire protection.
The primary reason for the expansion of the USD was to more equitably spread out the cost of police and fire protection to General Services Districts (GSDs) in the suburbs.
According to and October 4, 2016 article in the Tennessean:
Excerpt from Nashville neighborhoods pass on offer for more services, higher taxes:
Under the proposal, someone owning a home valued at $300,000 in one of the general service areas would pay another $444 per year in property taxes if they were to join the USD. But Metro planners say that residents in general service areas already pay an average of $324 annually in private trash collection, meaning the net increase under this scenario would only be $120 per year.
The creation of two different property tax rates goes back to the consolidation of Metro government in 1963. The USD included the former city of Nashville, while people in previously unincorporated parts of the old county government were assessed the lower GSD tax rate.
During Metro’s inception, the USD rate was meant to also cover extra police and fire protection in the more urban parts of Nashville as well as water, sanitary and sewer coverage in addition to other services. But Metro planners have noted that the GSD has over time grown to receive police, fire and other services yet its residents still pay the lower taxes.
Metro Planning Director Doug Sloan has said residents in the USD have effectively subsidized services in the GSD and that expanding the USD is a way to “fix an inequity.”
The same article in the Tennessean also reported that 8 of the 20 Districts opted into the expanded USD. Twelve District representatives opted to stick with lower property taxes, and stay in the GSD, presumably because most of their constituents are already paying for neighborhood street lights and receiving trash removal services through their HOAs.
District 8, represented by Council member Nancy VanReece, opted into the USD. So homeowners in District 8, now paying higher property taxes, fully expected publicly provided trash and recycling services.
Unfortunately, they’re now being told they’re not entitled to these services, because they own property on private roads. Madison officials insist that property owners must create their own HOA for the private roads, and then provide a legal release and permission to allow Public Works to send their trash and recycling hauler to their neighborhood.
Neighborhood: “Why are we paying taxes, but not getting the benefits?”
Updated 1 hr ago | Posted on October 8, 2018
MADISON, TN (WSMV) – Drone4 shot video of a District 8 neighborhood in Madison.
In 2016, their council member Nancy VanReece voted to increase property tax rates in exchange for added city services.
Recently, residents received a letter saying soon they’d finally get recycling and trash pick up.
Then they got a second letter saying they wouldn’t.
The problem is that the streets below are all considered private and apparently private streets are not serviced by Metro Public Works.
Pilgrim Drive & Court
Heritage Square Drive
“I feel more than duped because we’re paying Davidson County for these services that we’re no longer going to receive,” said resident Velinda Bransford.
Councilman VanReece sent us an email saying:
“I appreciate the frustration. We discussed this situation as a community in 2015 and I had hoped that an HOA would have formed.
All this to say – if anyone is ready to talk to neighbors about a HOA please let me know and I can point folks to some help on the logistics for that.”
Meanwhile residents like Bransford want their trash picked up, just like everyone else.
“It’s definitely not fair to the residents. You’re taking our funds but you won’t service us it’s ridiculous,” said Bransford.
Not surprisingly, homeowners don’t appreciate paying higher taxes, but not receiving services that were promised in exchange for their additional mandatory tax payments to the city of Madison!
Chances are, homeowners who own property on these excluded private streets do not have the money to properly maintain them. After all, they do not have a mandatory membership HOA to collect funds.
The usual municipal knee-jerk reaction in HOA-heavy Nashville is “just create another HOA.” That way, metro tax dollars don’t have to be used to maintain these streets.
But even if an HOA had been established when the private roads were constructed by the developer, there’s still no guarantee that these District 8 homeowners would have been willing to effectively tax themselves sufficiently to cover the actual cost of private road maintenance.
Going forward, it’s highly unlikely that a newly-created HOA will ever collect enough money in HOA assessments to maintain, let alone repair, all seven private streets. After all, they’re already starting off with zero dollars toward a road maintenance fund.
That’s an even bigger problem for these homeowners than the lack of trash and recycling pick up.
Why should homeowners have to create yet another layer of government — and another bill to pay — through a private HOA? And why should homeowners open themselves up to the possibility that a few of their neighbors will push new HOA restrictions and rules that would then have to be enforced?
Madison’s attempt to get homeowners to agree to a mandatory HOA in a non-HOA neighborhood is unrealistic, and unfair to property owners who went out of their way to avoid an HOA in the first place. It’s a violation of private property rights to hoist an HOA upon a homeowner against their will.
As homeowner Velinda Bransford points out, she and her neighbors are already paying higher taxes to their city and county for a much lower level of service. A portion of her property tax dollars is helping to pay for road maintenance and trash removal services in other neighborhoods with public streets, and yet, her city officials expect her to pay for maintaining private roads and arrange for private trash hauling, too.
For those services, Bransford and her neighbors are effectively being double taxed.
Madison leaders should work with homeowners to come up with a more reasonable solution — one that won’t unfairly burden homeowners with additional expenses that they probably cannot afford.