The budget includes a $849 million spending plan, $4 million less then this year’s budget with no property tax increase. Jacobs says, this was a difficult budget to develop. The mayor says the drop in revenue meant many of the things they 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. Jacobs says the losses are connected to the COVID-19 pandemic as the health department forced businesses to close.
The Mayor’s Compete Address:
Because of the decrease in revenue, the county is seeing a hiring freeze, suspension of salary increases and elimination of work travel. Jacobs says the stock market’s recent drop forced Knox County 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.
The budget does 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.