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Knoxville mayor proposes tax and pay increases to combat city and police staffing shortages

The mayor's office said 1 in 10 positions at the Knoxville Police Department is unfilled.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The City of Knoxville said they have 136 vacancies, 9% of their total workforce. The Knoxville Police Department has the most, with 51 vacancies out of around 500 employees. 

A compensation study by the city said Knoxville pays its employees about 10% below their market value. To combat the staffing shortages, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon proposed an increase in assessed value property tax of $0.50 per $100. 

The assessed value of a home in Knox County is 25% of the home's appraised value. In Knoxville, homeowners have to pay a city and a county property tax rate on their property. 

This year, the Knox County Assessor's office completed a reappraisal of houses in the county, independent of both the city and county government. Because home values in the county have increased drastically over the past 2 years, many homeowners got higher assessed values on their houses. 

However, the city and the county are not allowed to earn more money from property taxes under Tennessee law, unless they pass a budget resolution that would raise the tax rate. 

The re-appraisal will reduce the property tax rate in both Knoxville and Knox County. After the rate is lowered and the Mayor's tax increase is implemented, city leaders expect the new overall tax rate to be around $2.20 per $100 of a home's assessed value.

To estimate the tax rate, homeowners need to take their appraised value and divide it by 25% to arrive at the assessed value. Then, they need to take their assessed value and divide it by $100. By multiplying that by the new overall tax rate of $2.20, they should find how much money they need to pay.

Keith Lyon, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police said KPD and the Knox County Sheriff's Office need to pay officers more to keep them here. 

"They have to compete with the entire nation," Lyon said. "You don't have to match their salary per se, but you got to get close." 

David Brace, the Deputy Mayor and Chief Operating Officer of Knoxville said under the new payment plan some public workers could see huge increases in their salaries.

  • A master firefighter, which is a firefighter with high levels of training and experience, would see a salary increase from $47,419 to $52,431
  • An experienced police officer could see an increase from $50,144 to $60,969

Lyon said it's difficult to keep officers in Knoxville and Knox County because their training programs are so good. He said it essentially prepares them to compete for law enforcement in other parts of the country, where they could find higher pay rates.

"You can take the academy certificate and basically get a job just about anywhere in the nation," Lyon said.

The Knoxville City Council will hear the first reading of the Mayor's budget, including the proposed property tax increase, on May 2. 

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