KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs today presented his Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget proposal to the Knox County Commission and taxpayers via video that was posted online. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Jacobs will not host his budget tour to the individual county districts.
Mayor Jacobs unveiled a responsible budget that featured an overall $849 million spending plan with no property tax increase. The budget, which is of $4 million less than the current year, enables the continuation of county services and many of the amenities this community has come to expect.
“This has been a difficult budget to put together,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Such a major drop in revenue means many of the things we wanted to do, had hoped to do, took a backseat to ensure the continuation of more critical county services.”
This is the first time in over a decade the County’s budget has decreased year-over-year. The decrease comes from a $10 million year-over-year reduction in local option sales tax revenue; $850 thousand decrease in gasoline tax revenue; almost $800 thousand less in hotel/motel tax revenue; and fewer dollars coming from the courts and fee offices. These losses are connected to the COVID-19 pandemic as the health department forced businesses to close.
As a result of this revenue loss, there are some difficult things in this budget including the implementation of a hiring freeze, suspension of salary increases and elimination of work travel. Because of the stock market’s recent drop, Knox County was also forced to contribute an extra $400,000 to the County’s three defined benefit pension plans and draw $3.7 million from the rainy day fund to balance the budget—savings to cover three months of operating costs are still in the fund.
“I am grateful, as always, for the service, hard work and dedication of Knox County employees, and now also for the sacrifices they have made during this pandemic,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Despite these hardships, good work is still going to get done.”
Some budget highlights include:
- Step raises for eligible Knox County School employees and funding for the three new elementary schools proposed last year (Lonsdale, Adrian Burnett and Northwest) as well as additions to Brickey-McCloud and Sterchi Elementary schools.
- $4.3 million appropriation from the County General Fund to supplement the current school budget including $750,000 to support the kindergarten intervention program, the Knox County Education Foundation (formerly Great Schools Partnership) and the second year of the School’s literacy program.
- A provision for libraries to purchase more than 4,000 downloadable audiobooks and eBooks as well as 100 educational Launchpad tablets.
- Engineering & Public Works will receive more $77 million for continued infrastructure improvement projects and safety improvements to dangerous roads and intersections, despite the major shortfall in gasoline tax revenue.
- Parks and Recreation will receive funds to repair buildings, fences and other park structures; resurface several playgrounds; and work with the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club to continue maintenance for the county’s 29-mile trail system.
- Defined Service Contracts will be funded at the same level as the current budget.