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Knox Co. commission to discuss budget this evening | News

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Knox Co. commission to discuss budget this evening
News, Schools
Knox Co. commission to discuss budget this evening

by Mike Donila, WBIR

The Knox County Commission this week will begin picking through and potentially tweaking Mayor Tim Burchett's proposed budget.

The emphasis, officials say, will be on school spending .

The commission has set a public forum for 5 p.m. Monday in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, and the commission and Board of Education will host a joint work session, which is also open to the public, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ijam's Nature Center.

At issue is the county's spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The mayor initially proposed an almost $730 million spending plan with $427.8 million dedicated to the school system.

Earlier this week, though, officials learned that schools will get almost $3 million less than expected from the state, so Burchett revised his budget, dropping school funding to $424.9 million.

The new overall proposal now stands at $727 million.

School officials said they'll look to make cuts on their own, but are also asking the commission to help fund the gap.

In addition, school leaders also want the commission to include another $4.5 million that the Board of Education requested earlier this month to cover a 1.8 percent raise for teachers.

Burchett opted not to pay for it, saying he would sign off only on a revenue-neutral budget.

The mayor also said all additional school requests would require dipping into the reserve tank, something he hopes the commission won't do.

"I hope they continue to follow the accounting rules and rules of good business to where we don't use one time monies for ongoing expenses and we keep our bond rating stable in doing so," he said.

Commissioner Ed Shouse agreed.

"I do not see the county coming up with the difference in the loss of (state) money other than through the reserves but I think it's very imprudent to use one time money for something that's recurring," he said. "It's sort of a travesty that the state threw us this curve ball late in the game. There's going to have to be belt-tightening, I believe."

At this point, commission Chairman Brad Anders said, the discussions will focus on school matters. He said no other county departments have questioned the mayor's proposal.

The commission will vote on the overall plan on May 27.

The mayor's budget also includes a $164.3 million general fund, which covers much of the county's day-to-day operations and the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

The general fund jumped slightly compared to the current one by $2.7 million, including about an extra $1 million for law enforcement. Overall, the Sheriff's Office will get $77.5 million.

Burchett also proposed a $31.2 million capital improvement plan with about half of it set aside for schools; $13.8 million for highway and street-related initiatives that will include Phase II of Ball Camp Drive; $775,000 to relocate the Carter Convenience Center; $2.5 million for "dangerous" intersection improvements; $1.1 million for 30 Sheriff's Office vehicles; $700,000 in Sheriff's Office security upgrades; $1 million for engineering and public works vehicles; $350,000 for an HVAC system at the animal center; and $250,000 for the Information Technology Department.

The county, through its general fund and hotel-motel tax revenues, also will set aside more than $1.9 million for local organizations. For example, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Greater Knoxville will get $375,000. The Salvation Army, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, the Sertoma Center, Beck Cultural Center, Friends of Literacy and dozens of other non-profit operations also will get a cut.

Further, the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership will receive $80,000, Innovation Valley will get $250,000 and the Development Corp also will get $600,000 – all to help with economic development.

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