The Music City Meltdown

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A decade ago Nashville’s rise seemed inevitable, but fiscal recklessness left the city ill-prepared to absorb the pandemic’s economic blows.

For more than a decade, Nashville, Tenn., has been one of America’s hippest and fastest-growing cities. Anchored by the country-music industry and boosted by a hospitable state tax climate, the city and surrounding region attracted businesses and residents. While its music scene made it a tourist mecca, Nashville also lured a generation of college-educated transplants, earning a position as one of the country’s new “brainpower cities.”

These days Nashville is making its way onto other, less distinguished lists. The Institute for Truth in Accounting recently ranked it one of the country’s five worst “sinkhole” cities, with $22,000 in debt per resident. Its bonded debt alone has increased by more than $1.25 billion in 10 years. City leaders have used deficit financing to balance Nashville’s books and spent much of the city’s reserve funds.

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