Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett presented his $798 million county budget plan for fiscal year 2018 Monday morning, including an increase in school funding and funds to build a new BMX track at South-Doyle Middle School.
The budget includes no tax increase. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The $798 million budget is a $26.8 million increase over the current year, which represents a 3.48 percent increase.
Burchett said the increase is "thanks to natural revenue growth, a strong local economy and our focus on jobs and getting out of the way of the private sector."
The general purpose schools budget will be $471.1 million, a $17.6 million increase over this year. Over 62.6 percent of the county budget goes to schools, according to the mayor's office. The budget fully funds the Board of Education's budget requests.
The capital improvements plan also includes $10 million for schools in addition to $5.8 million to finish constructing the new Gibbs and Hardin Valley middle schools.
The capitol improvements plan also includes $4.1 million for the Knox County Sheriff's Office to buy 45 new vehicles, body cameras and E911 radios.
The budget includes $750,000 to turn the South Doyle Middle School football field into a BMX track, and build two new fields at the school.
Burchett said the BMX track will be open for public use and can attract events that would generate money from tourism.
"I think this one will pay off. It's a really hot sport right now and the kids love it," Burchett said. "Heads in beds: that's what's going to happen, and we make a lot of our money off of sales tax revenue."
The city of Rock Hill, S.C. built a BMX facility, which opened nearly three years ago. Officials there say events have brought in thousands of cyclists and several million dollars in economic impact.
That has caught the eye of Visit Knoxville.
"It also gives something for the local people to use throughout the year, and then we can just pull some big events in, you know, certain times, so it's good," Visit Knoxville Sports Commission senior director Chad Culver told 10News.
Doug Bataille is senior director of Knox County's Parks and Recreation Department, which is one of the main players in this project.
He calls the BMX facility "a neat amenity for the community, a great way to get kids out and get active in the bicycling community, offer another activity for them through kind of a club kind of team."
Standing in the SDMS stadium, Bataille said his department is proposing putting the BMX track where the grass is currently located, and keeping the track that encircles that field.
Then, he said, Parks and Rec would "renovate and rebuild some fields up here on the campus for soccer and football, give them a smaller facility that would be easier for them to manage but really meet their needs well."
The county hopes to open the facility by summer 2018, Bataille said. If the SDMS location doesn't work out, Safety City is a possible back-up.
The Knox County Parks and Recreation Department is holding a public meeting about the project on June 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the South-Doyle Middle School auditorium.
The track must be approved by the Knox County Commission. If approved, it could be completed by fall 2018. According to the Parks and Rec Department, it would be the only BMX track in the country inside a middle school stadium.
Burchett is also holding a series of public meetings about the proposed county budget Monday and Tuesday.
The meetings are planned for the following times and locations:
Monday, May 1
Karns Senior Center
8042 Oak Ridge Highway
Cedar Bluff Library
9045 Cross Park Drive
100 Golfclub Road
Halls Senior Center
4405 Crippen Road
Fountain City Library
5300 Stanton Road
Tuesday, May 2
South Senior Center
6729 Martel Lane
Strang Senior Center
109 Lovell Heights Road
Corryton Senior Center
9331 Davis Drive
Carter Senior Center
9036 Asheville Highway
4614 Asheville Highway
330 W. Emory Road