(WBIR) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett today publicly released his proposed budget, a $730 million "no frills" spending plan that doesn't increases taxes, dip into reserves, lay off employees or cut services.
It's not an "exciting" budget, the mayor stressed, and it doesn't fully fund a number of "unlimited requests."
For example, it dedicates $427.8 million – a $7.9 million increase from the current year – to the school system, but doesn't include an additional $4.55 million that school leaders requested to cover a 1.8 percent raise for teachers.
"There's not enough revenue," Burchett said prior to his presentation in front of about 200 people and the Knox County Commission at the City County Building
But, he added: "Overall, I think it's fair to say that this is a straight forward and lean budget."
MORE : Mayor Burchett's speech
The proposed budget is up $15.1 million from the current spending plan with more than half of the increase dedicated to the school system. The budget also includes a $164.3 million general fund, which covers much of the county's day-to-day operations and the Knox County Sheriff's Office.
That fund jumped slightly by $2.7 million, including about an extra $1 million for law enforcement. Overall, the Sheriff's Office will get $77.5 million.
Burchett also proposed a $31.2 million capital improvement plan with about half of it set aside for schools; $13.8 million for highway and street-related initiatives that will include Phase II of Ball Camp Drive; $775,000 to relocate the Carter Convenience Center; $2.5 million for "dangerous" intersection improvements; $1.1 million for 30 Sheriff's Office vehicles; $700,000 in Sheriff's Office security upgrades; $1 million for engineering and public works vehicles; $350,000 for an HVAC system at the animal center; and $250,000 for the Information Technology Department.
The county, through its general fund and hotel-motel tax revenues, also will set aside more than $1.9 million for local organizations. For example, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Greater Knoxville will get $375,000. The Salvation Army, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, the Sertoma Center, Beck Cultural Center, Friends of Literacy and dozens of other non-profit operations also will get a cut.
Further, the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership will receive $80,000, Innovation Valley will get $250,000 and the Development Corp also will get $600,000 – all to help with economic development.
Officials say they struggled this year to put together the budget. The mayor has long said he didn't plan to raise taxes, and revenue growth projections are expected to be conservative – about a "modest" 2 percent growth compared to the current year.
Burchett also said tapping into the county's $51 million reserve fund is not an option.
After Thursday's morning presentation, the mayor will hold public meetings at the following locations:
- Knox County Health Dept, 140 Dameron Road: 10:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday
- Halls Senior Center, 4405 Crippen Road: 1-2 p.m. Thursday
- Carter Senior Center, 9036 Asheville Highway: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday
- Burlington Library, 4614 Asheville Hwy: 4-5 p.m. Thursday
- South Knox Senior Center, 6729 Martel Lane: 9:30-10:30 a.m. Friday
- Bearden Library, 100 Golf Road: 11 a.m. – noon Friday
- Cedar Bluff Library, 9045 Cross Park Drive: 2-3 p.m. Friday
- Farragut Library, 417 N. Campbell Station Road: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday
- Karns Community Center, 7709 Oak Ridge Hwy: 5-6 p.m. Friday
(WBIR) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's proposed budget for the upcoming year stands at an overall $730 million – up $15 million from the current spending plan with more than half of the increase dedicated to the school system.
However, the mayor declined to give the Knox County Board of Education everything it requested.
"It's not exciting. It's the way budgets are supposed to be – no fireworks," Burchett said.
The budget doesn't raise taxes, dip into reserves, lay off employees or cut services.
It dedicates $427.8 million – a $7.9 million increase from the current year – to the school system, but doesn't include an additional $4.55 million that school leaders requested to cover a 1.8 percent raise for teachers.
"There's not enough revenue," the mayor said.
He added: "We can't dictate how the school system spends (its) money. If the school board wants to spend it on something, they can do that. It's up to them whether to allocate the money – teachers' raises for instance. That's 1 percent of $428 million and they chose not to put it in their budget."
The mayor will unveil his budget to the Knox County Commission at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.
He'll then host a series of public meetings later that day and on Friday at various libraries, community centers and senior centers throughout the county.
The commission will hold a public forum after its May 19 work session before voting on it the following week. The budget must be approved by June 30, the final day of the current fiscal year.
Burchett allowed his finance team to meet earlier this week with the media, so long as it embargoed much of the information until midnight.
Officials say they struggled this year to put together the budget. The mayor has long said he doesn't plan to raise taxes, and revenue growth projections are expected to be conservative – less than the 2.5 percent growth projected in the current year.
Burchett also said tapping into the county's $51 million reserve fund is not an option.
"It's always unlimited requests and limited funding," he added.
The school system, for example, asked for more money than its own finance team expected to get in revenues. Earlier this month, the Board of Education approved a $432.2 million budget for the next school year.
It included a 2.5 pay raise for teachers. The school system agreed to cover a .7 percent raise, but wanted the county to put up the money - $4.55 million – to pay for another 1.8 percent increase.
Burchett, though, declined. Instead, he proposed a budget that covers the school system's own revenue projections - $427.8 million.
The mayor suggested that the request was political since a number of school board incumbents are facing challengers in the upcoming elections.
"I understand that they have to make points but it's not going to happen," he said, adding that "you simply cannot" use one-time funding to pay ongoing expenses.
"We have an excellent bond rating right now and I'm not going to waste it on election hopes," he said.
The Board of Education's funding typically represents about 60 percent of the county's overall budget. The rest is then divvied up between a spending plan for capital improvement projects and the general fund, which covers much of the day-to-day operations and the Knox County Sheriff's Office.
The mayor noted that his general fund also will cover another $6.5 million for the school system in monies tied to the Great School Partnership, a reading initiative for K-3 students and a Kindergarten intervention program.
The mayor also doesn't plan to give across-the-board raises to general county employees or those in the sheriff's office.
However, some workers under the county's executive branch will receive salary adjustments.
The move comes in response to a salary survey the county conducted in early 2013 that said many county wages didn't stack up to those in 16 comparable local governments across the Southeast, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Montgomery, AL, and Spartanburg County, SC.
Last year, the administration implemented Phase I of the increase, which affected about 400 of the executive branch's roughly 900 positions and cost $1.1 million.
On average, the positions received a 5 percent bump. Of the 400 jobs that received adjustments, almost 55 percent earned $30,000 or less and just over 75 percent made $40,000 or less.
The budget this year includes another $250,000 to implement Phase II. Under it, 146 positions, most which pay less than $30,000 annually, will receive a 2.5 percent increase. The jobs are mostly in the health department, engineering and parks and recreation.
In addition, the mayor said he might give employees an extra week of vacation, something he's done in the past but didn't do during the current fiscal year.
The budget also adds 33 new jobs, however almost half of them are transfers from the medical examiner's office, which the county will take over once the contract expires. The administration created another two other jobs to operate the soon-to-be-open Karns Senior Center. Another job also was added to the internal audit department, which is overseen by the county commission. The county also must pay for a handful of added jobs in the health department that were initially funded through grants. The sheriff's office also split up some positions to create three additional jobs.
Last week, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero unveiled her proposed budget for the city, which raises the municipal property tax rate by 34 cent to $2.7257 per every $100 of assessed value. That equates to an $85 a year increase in city property taxes for a residential home with an assessed value of $100,000; $127.50 increase for a $150,000 home and $1,363.85 for a $200,000 home.
The county's property tax rate currently stands at $2.32 per every $100 of assessed value.
After Thursday's morning presentation, the mayor will hold public meetings on:
Knox County Health Dept, 140 Dameron Road: 10:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday
Halls Senior Center, 4405 Crippen Road: 1-2 p.m. Thursday
Carter Senior Center, 9036 Asheville Highway: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday
Burlington Library, 4614 Asheville Hwy: 4-5 p.m. Thursday
South Knox Senior Center, 6729 Martel Lane: 9:30-10:30 a.m. Friday
Bearden Library, 100 Golf Road: 11 a.m. – noon Friday
Cedar Bluff Library, 9045 Cross Park Drive: 2-3 p.m. Friday
Farragut Library, 417 N. Campbell Station Road: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday
Karns Community Center, 7709 Oak Ridge Hwy: 5-6 p.m. Friday