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Mayor Burchett releases FY2018 budget plan

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KNOXVILLE (May 1, 2017) – This morning, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett presented his Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal to the Knox County Commission.  The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The approximately $798 million budget proposal represents a $26.8 million increase – approximately 3.48 percent – over the current FY2017 budget.  The budget plan provides $471.1 million for Knox County Schools, which is an increase of approximately $17.6 million over the current year. With this proposal, Knox County Schools funding will have increased by more than $92 million since Mayor Burchett took office in September 2010.

Other notable elements in the FY2018 budget proposal include:

  • Overall budget of $798,007,280 including schools and public safety
  • General Fund Budget, including public safety: $181,294,608
  • Public Safety: $84,261,485
  • No tax increase
  • $36.9 million Capital Improvement Plan, including:
    • $10 million for Knox County Schools CIP
    • $7 million for Schaad Road project, phase 3
    • $5.1 million for other Engineering & Public Works projects, including safety and capacity improvements at problematic intersections
    • $750K for proposed BMX facility
    • Funding for 45 new KCSO vehicles, body cameras and radio upgrades
  • $1.7 million for defined services contracts from General Fund
  • $4 million hotel/motel tax fund for tourism, cultural attractions and the arts & culture community

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal is available online at http://www.knoxcounty.org/finance/pdfs/2017_2018_budget/proposed_budget.pdf.

During his budget presentation to the Commission, Mayor Burchett gave the following remarks:

Chairman Wright, members of the commission, thank you for being here today. Commissioner Dailey, thank you for leading us in the pledge – and Commissioner Gill, thank you for the prayer. (Susan B. Anthony Award)

Before I get started, I would like to take a moment to recognize some of our guests in the audience, beginning with my wife Kelly and our daughter, Isabel.

I know you all are really excited about this list, but if you hold your applause until the end, we’ll all get to the sausage biscuits a little faster.

[MAYOR ACKNOWLEDGES ELECTED OFFICIALS AND GUESTS]

Thank you all for being here.

I also want to take a moment to thank Finance Director Chris Caldwell and his budget staff for putting this proposal together.

This is my sixth budget presentation to the Knox County Commission, and by now most everyone knows not to expect a lot of fireworks in my speech.

This budget reflects the responsible fiscal policies that my administration and this commission have worked to follow for the past several years.

It also reflects some of the savings we’ll realize as part of the Voluntary Workforce Reduction program we announced – and you approved – earlier this year. There were 79 employees who took advantage of the program, which will result in $4 million in annual savings.

Most importantly, this budget does not require a tax increase, and I am not proposing one.

Thanks to natural revenue growth, a strong local economy and our focus on jobs and getting out of the way of the private sector, this budget includes a projected $26,821,713 in new revenue, for a total budget of $798,007,280.

Of the $798 million total budget, a little over $181 million is designated for departments funded out of the General Fund – these departments include the Knox County Health Department, the Knox County Sheriff’s office, our senior centers and veterans service office, and many of the other departments that make Knox County Government work.

Educating our community’s children and supporting our school teachers are among the most important things we do in Knox County, and I know our new Superintendent of Schools, Bob Thomas, agrees.

This budget reflects these priorities by designating nearly two-thirds of the entire budget to education.

I’m recommending that Knox County Commission fully fund the Knox County Schools’ budget request.

The $471,146,000 I’m proposing for the Schools’ budget is in addition to more than five-million dollars we’re providing for Kindergarten intervention, early literacy support and the Great Schools Partnership.

This budget will bring the total new funding provided to Knox County Schools to more than $92 million dollars since I took office – that’s a nearly 25 percent increase to education funding in our community and something we should be proud of.

I’ll talk a little more about the County’s Capital Improvement Plan in a moment, but for the Knox County Schools, my capital proposal fully funds the Board of Education’s request of $10 million. This is in addition to $5.8 million in the general county Capital Plan to complete the new Gibbs Middle School and to build out infrastructure for it and the new Hardin Valley Middle School.

It doesn’t matter how many schools we build in our community if we don’t have outstanding teachers in the classroom – and in Knox County, we do. I’m happy to support increasing teacher pay with this budget proposal.

Our teachers aren’t the only ones who do good work for Knox County. Our departments are filled with employees who come to work every day ready to do a good job and serve our taxpayers and our community.

I can’t recognize all of them, but I would like to recognize a couple right now.

Knox County Parks and Recreation Planning and Development Manager Shauna Godlevsky took the initiative to study for-, take-, and pass a new accreditation exam that will help her work to plan and develop efficient, environmentally friendly park facilities.

Over in our Engineering and Public Works Department, Director of Planning and Development Cindy Pionke is regularly recognized by her peers both regionally and nationally for her dedication and professionalism, including receiving the Herman J. Hoose Distinguished Service Award earlier this year.

I’d like to ask Shauna and Cindy to please stand and be recognized.

Shauna and Cindy are just two examples of the many outstanding employees working for Knox County.

This budget will provide a pay increase of a step-and-two-percent for county employees like them.

This means from our Highway Department to our Knox County Sheriff’s Deputies, pay has increased by approximately 13 percent since we took office six-and-a-half years ago.

These nearly annual raises wouldn’t have happened without the support of this commission.

This proposal calls for more than $84 million in public safety funding, including $80 million for the Sheriff’s budget in support of our deputies and the work they do. 

This funding is in addition to $4.1-million in Capital Outlay to pay for new radios, body cameras, 45 new vehicles and other items our deputies need in order to remain one of the best departments in the nation.

Although the operational funding proposed for the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center is in the General Fund budget and not under Public Safety, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the leadership role that Sheriff Jones, Former Attorney General Randy Nichols, members of this Commission, our partners in the City of Knoxville and several others played in getting this important facility approved and under development.

Thanks to our efforts, professional treatment – not jail – will be an option for many people with mental illness in Knox County.

Another department working to address significant challenges in our community is the Knox County Health Department.

The $18.6 million I’m recommending to fund the Health Department will help ensure they continue to serve more than 40,000 patients each year in our community. That work will continue under this proposed budget.

Just a week ago, Knox County was recognized for our commitment to veterans. This goes beyond saluting the flag and saying the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting. It means providing a hiring preference for veterans, additional leave hours for our Guard members and reservists, and assisting those who served – and are serving – our country.

Our Veterans Service Officers help thousands of veterans and their family members each year, and this budget continues support of those efforts.

Remembering our past – whether honoring those who served our country or recalling our local and national history – is important to many people in our region.

Thanks to the support of this commission, the generosity of several community members and the work of the Knox County Public Library – we’re making it easier to explore our past with the help of the digital age.

The Library’s “Paper to Pixels” campaign resulted in the digitization of local newspaper archives all the way back to 1921, and now averages over 17,000 monthly logins.

This and other digital offerings provide important entertainment and educational opportunities for children, families and our seniors, and this budget provides the funding needed to continue these services.

As in previous years, this budget includes approximately $1.7 million for community non-profits, including more than a million dollars to our economic development organizations.

Over the years, we’ve worked more closely with the Knoxville Chamber and the Development Corporation, and these relationships continue to pay off – to the tune of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community. Many of these jobs are centered on high-tech manufacturing – and all of them are key to our ongoing success as a region.

Financially supporting our economic development partners is only one piece of the puzzle. I often say government doesn’t create jobs, but should create the environment that fosters job growth. We do that with low taxes and by providing and maintaining quality infrastructure.    

Of the more-than $10.9 million dedicated solely to Highway and Bridge Maintenance – a third of it – $3.5 million – is designated specifically for road and highway resurfacing. These funds, along with (approximately) $828,000 in state aid is enough to pay for 35 to 40 miles of paving, but it’s not all about simply resurfacing roads.

Our Capital Improvement Plan is another tool we use to provide funding for important, large-scale infrastructure projects that support our economic development and improve communities.

This Capital Plan calls for $36.9 million for needed highway work, school projects and other improvements.

And we’re going to fund these projects, as in past years, while continuing to reduce our overall debt.

As I mentioned earlier, this plan fully funds the Knox County Schools’ capital request of $10 million, plus the completion of infrastructure around our two new middle schools.

This Capital proposal also provides $12,100,000 for a portion of Phase 3 of the ongoing Schaad Road extension, a number of important safety improvements at several problematic intersections, and other work.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this proposal is a Parks and Recreation project. This plan recommends $750,000 for new athletic fields at South-Doyle Middle School and to build a new BMX track on the site of the current stadium.

Knox County Parks and Recreation is hosting a public meeting about this proposal on June 1st from 6 to 8 p.m. in the South-Doyle Middle School Auditorium. The public is invited to hear more about this proposal and to offer feedback on the idea.

BMX is seeing a surge in popularity and organized BMX events are having millions of dollars in economic impact on cities around our region, like Louisville, Kentucky and Rock Hill, South Carolina.

These events are putting heads in beds, diners in restaurants and shoppers in stores – and there’s no reason we can’t attract these events and add to the outdoor tourism momentum that already exists in South Knoxville.

The best part is, if we build this facility, it won’t just be for large, sanctioned events. There will also be opportunities for kids and families to come out to try something new and get active in a growing sport.

I’m excited about working with the community and moving forward with this unique project that can impact local tourism and also provide important improvements at South-Doyle Middle School.

Knox County has always been a great community and a great place to live, but right now is an especially exciting time to call this area home.

Our economy is doing well, we’re growing jobs, keeping taxes low and improving the quality of life for our residents.

We’re able to accomplish all of this because our community is filled with honest, hardworking people committed to conservative principles.

Commissioners, I appreciate all you do for Knox County and I look forward to working with you to pass this budget proposal. If you have any questions, please reach out to me.

After we leave here today, I and my staff will hold the first of several public meetings over the next two days to bring this budget proposal to the taxpayers. You are all invited to attend any of the meetings your schedules allow.

Thank you.

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