Knox County mayor presents 2019 budget proposal

Local News

The main assembly room of the City County Building was filled with local and state leaders for the presentation of the county mayor’s fiscal budget proposal for 2019.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett presented his budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, the last of his tenure, in front of the Knox County Commission Monday.

“It’s sentimental,” he said.

The mayor detailed an increase in the total budget and his intentions to keep taxes unchanged.

Burchett began the proposal by saying it does not raise taxes and meets the needs of Knox County.

More online: Read the full budget [PDF]

“The main thing we’ve done is I think bring the level of trust back to Knox County,” Burchett said. “The next mayor will probably be the most popular mayor of all time because they’ll crank open that bank vault where I’ve tried to save all that money in and that’s the way it goes.”

The overall budget increased by 2.6 percent, putting 20.8 million more than last year into the fiscal budget.

The proposal allocates $484.5 million, approximately 63 percent of the overall budget, to general purpose schools- all of the funding and priorities they asked for. This would be a 13.3 million increase in the general purpose school budget. 

The budget also proposes to fund Project GRAD and magnet schools, offering to divide the $1.3 million cost for Project GRAD between the county and the school board. Burchett said the money is not listed in the budget, because it will come out of a surplus fund.

“We’re going to do what’s right there,” Burchett said. “We’re going to take care of the kids, and also we’re going to put some criteria in just as you would in business, if the program doesn’t work then we’ll cut the money.”

The proposal must first be approved by the commission and the school board before it becomes a reality, and school board chair Patti Bounds says it’s still too early to tell if it will pass.

“We’ll just see going forward,” Bounds said. “I thought it was very thoughtful on their part. That’s a board decision, not one I can make on my own.”

Project GRAD issued this statement:

“We’re grateful to Mayor Burchett and Knox County Commission Chairman Randy Smith for stepping up to the plate with a solution to fully fund Project GRAD for FY 19. We have asked the Knox County Board of Education to approve the multi-year agreement that is on their agenda this month, first. With this agreement in place, we will be eager to work out the details of this full-funding plan with Knox County and Knox County Schools. The commitment of our elected leaders demonstrates their compassion for children, high expectations for students, and diligence about the use of taxpayer dollars.”

The general fund proposal totals over $186 million and provides a pay raise for sheriff’s deputies and general county employees. It would also dedicate $6 million solely for paving projects.

Additional support for Zoo Knoxville would be a part of the budget proposal, including the $1 million final payment for the first phase of their new master plan. The budget proposal would also recommit to the plan with a five-year, $5 million commitment. 

Over $35 million of the proposal would go to capital improvement plans. This would allocate $12.4 million for schools as well as $2.1 million for 46 new vehicles, body cameras and tasers for the Sheriff’s Office.

A total of $13 million would go to the largest road project in county history, the Schaad Road Project, to connect Clinton Highway and Lovell Road. Additionally, $4 million for safety improvements at top crash sites and problematic intersections, and other highway projects. 

Glenn Jacobs, winner of the Republican primary for Knox County mayor, said it’s a budget he can get behind.

“You can do a lot and make a dollar stretch and you don’t have to raise taxes in order for government to fulfill its necessary function,” Jacobs said.

As Mayor Burchett nears the end of his second term in office, he said he wants to be remembered for his transparency and seeing his commitments through.

“I’ve kept my word,” Burchett said. “That’s been my legacy.”

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