Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett unveils $734 million budget

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett unveils $734 million budget

Updated:
"It's fiscally responsible. We're living within our means, and of course we continue to provide the same services as last year," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. "It's fiscally responsible. We're living within our means, and of course we continue to provide the same services as last year," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett unveiled his proposed spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Wednesday morning, a budget that gives the school system exactly what was requested.

The budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year will have no tax increases, and also includes a cost of living adjustment for county employees.


Read Mayor Burchett's proposed budget


"It's fiscally responsible. We're living within our means, and of course we continue to provide the same services as last year," said Burchett. 

The total proposal, more than $734.527 million, reflects a $22.3 million increase from the current budget, which is good through June 30.

Among the proposed budget items, Burchett wants to give county workers a 2% cost of living raise, spend $1.2 million on a new senior center in Karns, and purchase 25 new cruisers and a transportation bus for the sheriff's office.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office originally requested 80 new cruisers. The cost for the mayor's proposed 25 cruisers is estimated at almost $1 million.

County workers were pleased to hear about the raise.

"We're just thankful that we're not thankful and not forgotten and we are appreciated. This is a blessing for us and our families," said county employee Mark Ray.

The mayor also wants to spend $4 million in capital improvement funds to complete the Karns connector and increase the highways budget by $200,000 to a total of $5 million.

The budget anticipates a 2.5 percent project increase in sales tax revenue and 1.5 percent projected increase in property tax revenue.  

Burchett's $734 million budget proposal is, as he describes it, a lean one.

It's focused on driving down the county's debt by $100 million in five years, a pledge made when he took office in 2010.

The mayor said he's reduced spending through eliminating some unfilled jobs.

"We refinanced bonds, gotten better rates, where departments where senior people have left, we have asked junior members to fill them, and then not fill their position, so we're able to save money that way," Burchett said.

Sixty-two percent of the budget is for the county schools. 

Burchett is fully funding Knox County Schools' $419 million spending request, which includes money for teacher raises, technology upgrades, and funding to hire 58 additional school resource officers.

"We've got an agreement with the education folks where they want to be and where want them, and we've met in the middle," Burchett said.

"We've been able to be collaborative and have conversations on what the priorities were, and what level of investment we wanted to make," said Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre.

A $27.5 million capital improvement plan including $13.95 million in school upgrades, $5.15 million for highways, and $1.2 million for Karns Senior Center.

Other highlights in Wednesday's proposal include:

  • $1.47 million to various non-profit organizations.
  • $1 million to funding the proposed county safety center.
  • $184,000 for the Election Commission for enhanced software to scan ID's of voters.

This year's budget discussions have been much different from last year's process, during which Burchett and Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre battled over a proposed $35 million increase for the schools.  

This year, Burchett expects that commissioners won't experience a similar budget battle.

"They'll look forward to a non-contentious budget," Burchett said.

If initial reaction from commissioners is any indicator, the mayor is right.

"It seems to be, it will be a non-controversial budget process this year. I think there's a lot to like about it. I'm very pleased at the mayor's proposal," Commissioner Richard Briggs said.

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