April 24, 2014 - Mayor Madeline Rogero today presented a proposed budget for 2014-15 that will put the City of Knoxville in position to meet increased obligations for the foreseeable future while continuing to invest in neighborhoods, infrastructure and a revitalized urban core.
To meet the growing liability of legacy pension plans, the mayor proposed a 34-cent increase in the City's property tax rate, which would raise it to $2.7257. Adjusted for inflation and equalization, this will still leave it far below the effective rate of 10 years ago, when former Mayor Bill Haslam enacted the last City tax increase.
"Leaders know that there is a time to listen, a time to decide, and a time to act. I have listened throughout my time as mayor, and especially as we prepared this budget," Mayor Rogero said in her annual budget address, held this year at Christenberry Ballfields in the Oakwood neighborhood of North Knoxville. "I have presented you with a plan that is practical, strategic, and that takes inspiration from our hopes and our vision."
The proposed general fund budget of $200.5 million includes increased funding for sidewalks and crosswalks across Knoxville, $1.2 million for public infrastructure improvements downtown, $300,000 for continued improvements in the Magnolia Warehouse District and Corridor, $500,000 to remediate blighted and chronic problem properties, $500,000 for historic preservation projects, $1 million for greenway corridors, and improvements to Lakeshore Park, Fountain City Lake and Ijams Nature Center.
It keeps City employee count effectively flat, adding one full-time position and eliminating two part-time positions. Full-time City personnel will be 1,599, which is actually down slightly from 1,602 10 years ago.
The budget includes $23.39 million to meet obligations of City pension plans, a $7.38 million increase from 2012-13. Those costs are projected to rise further to $26 million the following year and to more than $30 million by 2018-19. Pension reform proposed by Mayor Rogero and approved by City Council and Knoxville voters in 2012 closed the previous pension plans and created a new one for employees hired beginning in 2013. But the City is legally obligated to pay benefits to employees and retirees already vested in the previous plans.
"Everywhere I go I hear that we are on the right track. There is an excitement and a buzz for the good things happening in Knoxville," Mayor Rogero said. "We need to stay on track. We need to keep the momentum building. We need to continue to invest in building a great city."
For the detailed budget proposal and the text of Mayor Rogero's speech, see http://www.cityofknoxville.org/budget.