KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville City Council voted to approve Mayor Indya Kincannon's 2022-2023 budget as well as a property tax increase on all homes in the city.
Kincannon said the property tax increase was necessary to raise the extra money needed to bring city workers' pay up to competitive rates.
The City Council approved a $0.50 per $100 of assessed value property tax increase. City leaders said they needed to raise the tax to help cover the extra $26 million to fulfill its budget priorities.
However, Deputy Mayor Stephanie Welch said during Tuesday's meeting that the city may not need the full $0.50 increase. Instead, they think the property tax rate will increase by $0.35, similar to the increases by previous Knoxville Mayors Haslam and Rogero.
In essence, the City of Knoxville thinks homeowners would end up paying about:
- $10 more per month for a $100,000 house
- $20 more per month for a $200,000 house
- $52 more per month for a $500,000 house
The city council meeting on Tuesday was full of firefighters, police officers and their union leaders urging council members to approve the tax increase and the pay increase.
A Knoxville Police Department representative said in 2011, the department was fully staffed and had 1,001 people applying for jobs. This year, he said, they have 156 applicants.
The Knoxville Fire Department said it's experiencing staff shortages, too. A firefighter's representative said some of them are having to pull 96-hour shifts — equivalent to four full days of work, without any sleep.
City Councilwoman Amelia Parker opposed the Mayor's budget. Parker said there are other issues with staffing, besides just pay.
"Throwing money at a problem is easy," Parker said. "Actually sitting down and thinking through what's going to solve this problem is the tough work."
In a rare move, Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay spoke at the City Council meeting against the proposed property tax increase.
"We're right in the middle of an economic crisis," Jay said. "This proposed budget and tax rate increase only makes things worse for the average citizen."
Jay asked the council members whether the tax increase is excessive and whether the budget reflected the necessary priorities of the community.
"It's essential services," the Mayor fired back. "There's not fluff in this budget."