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Knox County Commission passes budget with officer raises, full funding for schools

Glenn Jacobs presented the annual plan earlier in May, and the Knox County Commission approved it Monday night.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County Commission on Monday passed Mayor Glenn Jacobs' $893.6 million 2021/22 budget.

The numbers tell the tale: Knox County's budget for the new fiscal year looks nothing like last year's lean spending plan.

Earlier in May, Jacobs presented a 2021/22 proposed budget of that was $42.3 million above the current adopted budget.

Spanish Version: Alcalde de Condado de Knox presenta presupuesto para 2021/2022

It includes a fully funded $542 million schools budget, 5 percent raises for most Knox County Sheriff's Office uniformed personnel, a 33 percent boost in what it'll spend for road paving, and even money for a new environmental officer to try to curb county littering.

There's also $5 million toward acquiring new space in Farragut to accommodate growth in the elementary school population. Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas has recommended building a new school there.

Also, once again, there's no proposed property tax increase. The current rate is $2.12 per $100 of assessed value.

"We keep taxes low so that businesses can reinvest and grow, and so that families can keep the fruits of their hard work," Jacobs said Tuesday in his address. "We prioritize things that augment and complement the awesome wealth creation power of the free enterprise system, safe neighborhoods, quality infrastructure and excellent education and workforce training." 

Last year, county Finance Department Director Chris Caldwell sweated property and sales tax revenue projections as the pandemic swept across Tennessee and the rest of the nation. Except for a couple bad months, the county actually saw strong sale tax performance, likely helped by federal aid for consumers.

This year the Knox County Mayor's Office expects sales tax revenue to be almost $31 million higher than this year, according to Caldwell. Property taxes are expected to be about $7.4 million higher.

Jacobs said the county is well positioned to burnish its reputation as one of the best places to live in America.

The budget goes into effect July 1.

While KCSO uniformed personnel at the rank of captain and below will get 5 percent raises, those who rank higher or who are civilian personnel can expect 3 percent raises under the plan.

Pay for most uniformed KCSO positions have gone up about 24 percent in the past six or seven years, according to the county, dating to Tim Burchett's time as county mayor.

County employees in general will see about a 3 percent boost.

Knox County also expected to spend more than $87 million in the coming year on building and infrastructure needs such as roads and sidewalks.

Under the Jacobs plan, there'll be $250,000 to assess and project county parks needs and create a master plan.

Millions will go for road work including $8 million for continued construction on busy Schaad Road and $6.8 million to improve streets that include Canton Hollow Road and Coward Mill Road, where a new elementary school will be built out west.

Five million dollars in this year's capital plan will help jump start the process of planning for another school in Farragut for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade, Thomas' proposal states.

There's also $500,000 set aside for sidewalk improvements leading to Carter Elementary School on Strawberry Plains Pike, the budget shows.

Knox County also expects to get $91 million in federal aid from a $1.9 trillion package approved in March by Congress. It should get the money in two equal installments, the first one by mid May. Another would follow next year.

Knox County hasn't said yet how it might spend that money. It's not factored into Jacobs' proposed 2021/22 budget.