(WBIR-Knoxville) City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced her proposed 2014-2015 budget on Thursday.
It includes the city's first property tax increase in a decade. Mayor Rogero is proposing a 34 cent tax increase to help close the $10 million budget gap tied to rising personnel and pension costs.
Despite the tax hike, there are many investments she hopes the city can make.
Mayor Rogero has four key goals with this budget:
- Strong, safe neighborhoods
- Job creation and retention
- Living green and working green
- An energized downtown
Part of the focus with an energized downtown includes new restrooms near Market Square. Mayor Rogero is proposing $250,000 for the restrooms.
As of now, people in Market Square have to enter a business to use the restrooms. Union Avenue Books frequently has people using theirs.
"Back when they had Sundown in the City, there was always porta potties but there was also not nearly as much day-to-day traffic on the square as there is now. So I can certainly believe that some public bathrooms would be a positive thing," said John Post, an employee with Union Avenue Books.
But some of the business owners on Union Avenue are concerned with how the restrooms would affect the atmosphere of Market Square.
"I think on the surface it's a good idea but already we're seeing problems with squatters camping out all day. If it's not controlled carefully, Market Square could become their permanent residence," said Paul Karlsson, co-owner of CitiFid-o.
There are also several recommendations for greenway improvements. Mayor Rogero is also proposing $2 million to fund utility improvements, as well as the demolition of some buildings at Lakeshore Park.
The proposed budget also includes:
- $100,000 for improvements to Ijams Nature Center
- $350,000 in sidewalk improvements
- $250,000 in funding for the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum's new Center for Urban Agriculture capital campaign
- $285,000 in bicycle infrastructure improvements
- $1 million for the development of greenway corridors
Those investments are part of the city's goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 20% from 2005 levels by the year 2020.
"Smart streets is something that's on everyone's minds in this (city) council. We've been very proactive with Urban Wilderness. We're trying to brand ourselves as that," said Nick Pavlis, City of Knoxville vice mayor.
But City Councilman George Wallace said he is concerned with the budget's lack of focus when it comes to economic development.
"I think there ought to be an economic development piece in it and it's something we need to talk about. And really, there's not much in there at all for that," Councilman Wallace said.
The city council will have to approve the budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.