KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Mayor Indya Kincannon delivered her State of the City address on Friday afternoon at the future Knoxville Public Safety Complex site and announced the proposed budget priorities for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which include a 50-cent increase in the property tax rate and higher salaries for first responders and city employees.

“Knoxville is on a roll,” Kincannon said as she began her first in-person State of the City address. She said the proposed 50-cent increase in property taxes was necessary to address rapid city growth, rising inflation and an increase in calls for city services.

The proposal would increase the property tax rate to $2.9638 per $100 of assessed value. Under the proposal, a residential tax payer with a home appraised at $100,000 would pay roughly $10 more in monthly property taxes and the owner of a home valued at $500,000 would pay around $52 more per month.

According to the city, 80% of the increased property tax revenue would go towards funding people and core services costs like police, fire, public works and other government employees. Supplemental funding requests like for a new litter program, Medal of Honor and BassMaster events would make up 19% of increased tax revenue and the remaining 1% of new revenue would go toward pension cost increases.

The address came amid a time Knoxville residents are in year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing rising housing and living costs as well as a growing population; and the city itself has been struggling with rising calls for emergency services as well as more than 130 city job vacancies.

Kincannon also said the proposed $546 million budget focuses on infrastructure, affordable housing and retaining quality employees so that the city can continue to serve. The budget she was presenting Friday includes a $16 million increase for city employee salaries.

“Like every administration in recent history, we are at a crossroads,” Kincannon said. “Do we scale back city services? Do we short-change…? Or do we consider generating new revenue to fill the gaps?”

The mayor said her proposed budget will not only seek to improve the main issues facing residents and the city amid rising inflation and short staffing, but will also prepare the city for its future.

She also recognized the city’s first responders, inviting them to stand and she called them as well as other city workers who’ve responded to recent weather events and emergency situations heroes of the city.

Kincannon also said the budget is proposing a minimum $15/hour wage for full-time city employees.

“This is not only the right thing to do for our hardworking employees, but also to keep our city safe and reliable… our first responders have always had our back and now it’s time that we have theirs,” she said.

Affordable housing was also a point she hit in her address, saying while the city cannot build housing, they can create more partnerships.

“Our economy needs more affordable housing,” she said. “We’re doing our part in the community to make sure our families can afford to thrive.”

The full proposed city budget is available on the city’s website.