Ragab Rashawn owns King Tut’s food truck and a commercial building that’s home to a hair braider and dress shop near the Nashville zoo on Nolensville Pike.
On the side of the building furthest from the street, there’s a mural of a sphinx and pyramids to represent Rashawn’s home country. He’s converted that area into a patio so customers feel comfortable eating outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This summer he recovered from the virus and was able to get government relief money yet he still feels the crunch of the pandemic.
“I don’t consider this year business. I call it a vacation,” he says.
Back in June, Metro Council increased the property tax rate by 34%, which exacerbated some people’s economic hardship from the pandemic. But Rashawn didn’t learn about it until November when he heard a customer talking. He was shocked as he thought of his struggling tenants, who are also small business owners.
“There’s no business anyway,” he says. “So how we going to ask you to pay more than usual if you are not working?”
He says he won’t bring it up to his tenants until they are back on their feet. Rashawn is planning to temporarily cover the increase himself so his tenants don’t leave.
“You have to have some love,” he says with a bit of worry in his voice. “We are human.”
He says he understands taxes increase but it’s the timing that’s catching him off guard.
This fall there was a failed attempt to cancel the property tax increase through a citywide referendum. The Nashville Public Library and many other city agencies announced the many ways its services would be slashed including the closure of many library branches. But a court blocked the petition because various parts were deemed illegal.
That gave Kate Wingate, a circulation assistant with the Nashville Public Library, a brief a sigh of relief.
“It’s been a wake up call to me and my husband that what is a fairly secure job with the city isn’t necessarily as secure as I had thought,” she says.
Wingate says she can afford the increase on her home. But had the failed petition moved forward her job and family’s health care coverage would’ve been in jeopardy. They’re now re-evaluating their reliance on her benefits.
Just like the pandemic and tax increase has forced many Nashvillians to do.