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Mayor Rogero at 2015 Budget Address Mayor Rogero Proposes $206M Budget with Increased Funding for Infrastructure, Parks, Youth Development

April 29, 2015 - In her State of the City Address today, Mayor Madeline Rogero presented a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16 that includes increased funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, parks and greenways, and youth development initiatives. It also includes continued support for economic development, blight abatement, center city redevelopment and historic preservation.

The proposed General Fund budget of $206.37 million is an increase of $5.87 million (or 2.93 percent) from the current year's budget. The total proposed Net Budget, which includes debt service and capital spending, is $289.59 million, an increase of $5.14 million (or 1.81 percent) from the current year.

No tax increase is proposed.

"This is a responsible, strategic budget that will allow us to continue to invest in our neighborhoods and maintain the great momentum we are seeing downtown and across Knoxville," Mayor Rogero said. "It supports economic development, public safety, and vital initiatives to provide opportunities and resources for young people in our most vulnerable communities."

The proposed budget will next go to City Council for consideration. Council is scheduled to hear it on first reading at its May 12 meeting, followed by public budget hearings on May 21, and second reading on May 26.

Among the spending proposals:

• $3.03 million for sidewalks and crosswalks, an increase of $850,000 from the current year; this includes $750,000 for the sidewalk safety program for sidewalks within school Parental Responsibility Zones;

• $1 million for bicycle infrastructure improvements to begin implementation of the Knoxville Bicycle Facilities Plan, an increase of $715,000 from the current year; also, $1 million for continued development of greenway corridors across Knoxville;

• $2.1 million for the renovation and refurbishment of the historic Administration Building at Lakeshore Park, which the City received from the state in 2013; $200,000 for ball field and tennis court improvements in City parks; and $75,000 for improvements at Fort Dickerson Park;

• Youth development programs including:
- $250,000 to assist Community Schools in center city neighborhoods, in collaboration with the Great Schools Partnership and Knox County Schools, an increase of $150,000 from the current year;
- $50,000 for the City's Save Our Sons initiative to increase opportunities and reduce violence-related deaths among boys and young men of color;
- And an additional $100,000 capital grant to support the expansion of the Caswell Avenue campus of the Boys and Girls Club;

• $500,000 to begin implementation of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes project;

• $150,000 for a "master developer" for the City-owned properties on West Jackson Avenue (the former site of the McClung Warehouses), along with $150,000 for streetscape improvements on South Central Street and $50,000 for the Downtown Improvements fund;

• $400,000 in economic development funding for the Innovation Valley regional initiative, along with funding for the Knoxville Chamber, $50,000 to support the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and $30,000 for the Visit Knoxville Film Office;

• $851,000 in new capital funding for the Knoxville Police Department for enhanced training facilities and law enforcement equipment;

• A total of $1.1 million for blight abatement and historic preservation including: $300,000 to address chronic problem properties, $200,000 for blighted property acquisition, $100,000 for enforcement of the "demolition by neglect" ordinance and $500,000 to support historic preservation across the city;

• $500,000 for commercial façade improvements;

• $875,000 in grants to community agencies, including capital funding of $250,000 to the Helen Ross McNabb Center for development of a domestic violence shelter, and $250,000 for ADA improvements at the Knoxville Area Urban League;

• And $375,000 in grants to local arts and cultural organizations, along with an additional $250,000 for the City's public arts fund.

The budget includes a $1.4 million increase in the City's contribution to the employee pension plan, bringing the total annual contribution to $24.8 million for normal obligations plus the amortization of the unfunded pension liability. It also includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living salary increase for all employees.

The budget adds two new positions, a project manager in the Office of Redevelopment and a parking meter technician in Engineering, bringing the total proposed personnel to 1,601 full-time employees. This is still two fewer full-time employees than the 1,603 the City had 10 years ago.