Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero presented her eighth and final budget proposal on Friday during the State of the City address.
The proposed $336.3 million budget is a 10 percent decrease from last year and does not include a tax increase.
Mayor Rogero said she will ask City Council to commit to proceeding with building a new public safety complex at the former North Knoxville Tennova site, which will include renovation and some new construction on the southern end of campus.. $6.5 million of the budget proposal is to secure the northern end of the campus, protect the historic hospital building for future use and demolish obsolete structures.
A total of $4.25 million of the budget proposal is earmarked to help KCDC revitalize Austin Homes and another $2.5 million is committed to the Affordable Rental Housing Development Fund.
The mayor also said her administration will continue talking with the Tennessee Smokies about relocating the minor league baseball team to Knoxville, but it will be up to the next mayor and city council to build a stadium.
More online: Read the full budget proposal
Under the proposal, all city employees will receive a 2.5 percent salary raise and the entry salary for police officers is raised to $40,000, a 7.7% increase. Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said she appreciated the help in recruiting new officers.
“She (Rogero) not only proposed more money for new officers but also across the board so we can keep the officers we have. It’s going to help tremendously with recruiting and also just employee morale. The mayor has always supported the police department and we just really appreciate that,” she said.
Her final budget presentation is at the start of the Urban Wilderness Project, one of the things Rogero takes the most pride in during her time in office. While many have advocated extending James White Parkway, the site for phase one of the Urban Wilderness Project, to cut down on traffic along Chapman Highway, Rogero stands by the concept.
“The entire one thousand acres is an incredible amenity for our city, our county, and our region. it is a cultural, historical, environment and health asset. it is an economic strategy that is already showing very positive returns,” she said.
She said she knows the dangers of Chapman Highway well. The outgoing Mayor said she, as well as two granddaughters, drive it daily. “If you want to save people from dying on Chapman Highway, you need to reduce the speed and improve the intersections and the driveways. You need to create safety improvements. That’s how we will make it safe,” she said.
Her budget calls for $200,000 for multimodal improvement to Chapman Highway.
Rogero also believes the portion of Chapman Highway that would have been bypassed, if the parkway were extended, is the portion where fewer accidents occur.
“We can have both. We can have a safe Chapman Highway and we can have an urban wilderness that is a local, regional, state and national attraction, a mecca for outdoor recreation. We can have both,” she said.
The budget includes $1.2 million for the development of greenway corridors, $1 million for the Fort Dickerson Quarry Development, $500,000 for Ijams Nature Center, and funds for improvements to ball fields, tennis courts and playgrounds, West Hills Park, Fort Kid, and fitness room upgrades and other enhanced park maintenance.
The mayor is also proposing $13.31 million for Knoxville Area Transit, including a pilot project adding free trolley service to the South Waterfront; $5.8 million for street paving; $535,000 for improvement to traffic signals; and $200,000 for traffic calming projects.