April 27, 2006 - Mayor Bill Haslam today
proposed a budget for the City of Knoxville that is "responsible,
pays the bills, puts some money into our savings and let's us do some
projects that move us forward."
Managing a city's budget is a lot like managing a family's budget,
the Mayor noted during the annual budget address held this year
at West Hills Park. The city needs money to provide for its basic
needs, pay its debts and should save some for unexpected expenses.
"I'm really pleased to share with you that over the last
three years we've more than doubled the amount in our savings account
- an amount that had gotten dangerously low. It's been increased
from $14 million to $30 million," he said. "We've also
reduced our debt by $35 million and will not borrow any new money
in next year's budget for the third year in a row."
Family budgets - and the City's - are being hit hard by increased
prices for utilities and gasoline, he said, adding the City expects
to pay $2.5 million more for those items this year.
"This is not the year to add to a family's burden by increasing
taxes," Mayor Haslam stated.
To live within its means, the City will continue to emphasize
productivity and efficiencies, doing more with less while keeping
services at the highest possible level.
your budget, there's just never enough money to do everything we
want to do
. I'm convinced good government is not always flashy
or about the next big project -- good government is about setting
goals based on a strategic plan," he said.
The City's strategic plan, Knoxville Works! contains four goals:
Stronger, safer neighborhoods; City services you can count on at
a competitive price; an energized downtown, everybody's neighborhood;
and more and better jobs.
The City's primary responsibility in building stronger, safer neighborhoods
is to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. The City will
continue to invest in recruiting, retaining and training members
of the Police and Fire Departments, which account for nearly half
of the budget.
Last year, the City received more than 8,000 complaints about rundown,
dilapidated houses and dirty lots - properties that are "dangerous
and crime-ridden and pull down our neighborhoods."
The City addresses these problems in several ways, including helping
with rehabilitation projects that "can make all the difference
in a neighborhood that's in transition. Over the last two and half
years we have given new life to over 150 houses and today I'm committing
$200,000 more to this effort," he said.
The City will continue building neighborhood connections - spending
$1 million on building and fixing sidewalks, and adding about 2.5
miles of greenways.
The second goal is City services you can count on at a competitive
When he took office, Mayor Haslam promised an aggressive road-paving
schedule, and the City has paved 100 miles of streets since. To
maintain that pace will cost $1 million more this year.
Drainage problems continue to be challenging, and $1 million is
budgeted for work on First Creek in North Knoxville; $1.1 million
for Third Creek restoration; $800,00 to fix a chronic problem at
Cross Park Drive; and $360,000 for other neighborhood projects.
Like most families, the city - and its employees - have experienced
increases in health-care costs. This year the city moved to a new
health insurance plan and created a wellness plan that encourages
healthy behaviors and offers free preventive exams. This approach
is expected to save the City $1.5 million and improve the health
of employees while saving them money too.
Much is being accomplished on the fourth goal - an energized downtown
that's everybody's neighborhood. The Bijou is set to reopen in June;
Mast General Store in August; and the Candy Factory and Victorian
Houses are now in private hands saving the city $10 million.
"Now we want to capitalize on the momentum and move it across the
river. We want the South Waterfront to be an extension of our downtown
and the theme 'everybody's neighborhood.'"
The South Waterfront Vision Plan was created by the citizens of
Knoxville and adopted by City Council to chart the course for what's
expected over the next 20 years to be more than $900 million in
investment, mostly in private funds. The budget will contain $1.3
million to begin implementing that vision.
Knoxville's success at getting more and better jobs, the fourth
goal, is gaining national recognition. In the first six months of
this fiscal year, 440 jobs have been created in the city through
business expansions, and another 300 new jobs are on the way. The
Jobs Now! strategy is working, and the City will continue to invest
in that regional approach.
Mayor Haslam closed by saying that the city is stronger and on
a firmer foundation, and he credited the hard work of people in
city government, City Council, partners in government at every level
and support of the business community.
"We can share great pride in what's been accomplished and
share in the anticipation of what's to come as we work together
to make Knoxville one of America's premiere cities to live, work
and raise a family."