Mayor Kincannon's Speech

Mayor

Indya Kincannon
mayor@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Prepared Speech of Mayor Indya Kincannon's State of the City Address

Proposed Budget for City of Knoxville's Fiscal Year 2020-2021

April 24, 2020


 
  View Full Proposed Budget [PDF]
   
Hello---
 
This State of the City Address comes during an unprecedented and uncertain time for the Knoxville community. 
 
Our intentions, even just a few weeks ago, were to deliver this year’s address in person---all of us gathered together--- from the bustling construction site of the new Public Safety Complex in North Knoxville. 

I looked forward to a day of celebrating major accomplishments and looking ahead to exciting new projects.  
 
Of course, this year, we need to take a different approach.  And while a lot has changed----let me reassure you----the spirit of our City has not!
 
I want to begin by thanking all our first responders, medical professionals, and essential workers facing the front lines of this pandemic.   We see your sacrifices----and we appreciate you.
 
We have also seen countless other people band together in the face of adversity.  Even while staying apart, our community has come together to lift each other up. 

Through food drives and PPE collections, Go Fund Me accounts and United Way donations---it is evident---our Volunteer Spirit is alive and well. 

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As we all adjust to our new normal, the City of Knoxville has been adjusting too.  

We’ve been tightening ---even slashing---some areas of the budget. We’ve had to change the ways we do business to keep our employees safe, while still maintaining essential services. 

Each day, we seek new ways to support the people hurting the most as we navigate this pandemic.  

It is a time of adaptation, of innovation, of collaboration, and of efficiency, now and as we look toward the road ahead. 
 
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The City of Knoxville is fortunate to be on firm financial footing, despite the very real impacts of COVID-19 and the reduced sales tax revenues that we project over the coming months.

Years of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars affords us the ability to weather the economic implications of this storm without furloughing staff, cutting services, or deferring maintenance of critical infrastructure.

We will keep the government working for you, and we will do so this year without a tax increase.

However, it is a year of fiscal austerity. 

It is a year of making sure we first have the basics covered, even if it means we cannot do all the things we hoped to do even just a few months ago. 

Still, our budget is a reflection of our values as a community.  Even amidst the crisis of COVID-19, these values hold firm and keep us focused on what matters most. 

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We value Public Safety as the core function of government, and my first responsibility. Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure, and we will make sure that our Police & Fire departments have the resources they need to protect our residents and businesses. 

This year’s proposed budget includes funding to support the deployment of body worn cameras for police officers ---as part of continuing efforts to increase transparency and accountability.

We will also join with Knox County in supporting the critical work of the Knoxville Knox County Emergency Management Agency, a small but nimble team at the center of our community’s response to COVID-19 and many other emergencies throughout the year.

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Across the city, perhaps now more than ever -- we desire neighborhoods that are healthy and connected, both physically and socially.  

In addition to supporting amenities such as sidewalks and greenways, parks to play in, and safe streets, this budget advances the City’s commitment to neighborhoods that are inclusive, livable and affordable. 

Especially now, the need for more affordable housing is clear. The proposed budget dedicates 7.5 million dollars to support affordable housing, including continuing the City’s commitment to the Affordable Rental Development Fund. 

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As we deal with the immediate challenges in front of us, we must look ahead to what our community needs to thrive in the long-term. 
We remain committed to a clean and resilient future, one where Knoxville is more sustainable and withstands the threats and hazards that our community faces, including climate change.

This budget continues our investment in stormwater infrastructure, in a robust transit system, in curbside recycling pick-up, and in energy efficiency for our own City facilities. 

In the coming months, I will convene local leaders and experts to participate in the Mayor’s Climate Council and help my administration chart a path to cut our community’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

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And we must focus on supporting businesses and good jobs. This is an area where so many are hurting right now. I hear you -- and I acknowledge the uncertainty and challenge in front of us. 

The City is working closely with business leaders and public health officials to develop a practical and data-driven plan for reopening our economy. 

We can and will have a healthy economy and healthy people.
This budget continues the City’s support of the Knoxville Chamber and Entrepreneur Center to support businesses--big and small-- across our community. 

It also reaffirms our commitment to Knoxville’s Community Schools Initiative and the work they do to invest in the workforce of tomorrow. 

To support technology access for people of all ages -- a critical need in today’s economy--we will also be upgrading City recreation centers with Wi-Fi and public computers. 

Though shaken, our economic foundation is strong, and we will nourish it by investing now in our workforce, in entrepreneurship and innovation, and by supporting our local businesses who-- in turn--support us.

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The budget I’m proposing today would take effect July 1.  
However, there are many needs immediately facing our community that demand a quick response. 

That is why concurrent with this budget proposal, I am also laying out a COVID-19 Response package valued at more than $4 million dollars.   

It represents a collective commitment by the City to help our community respond to this pandemic. 

In addition to more than $1 million dollars already spent, I am proposing another budget amendment of more than $1 million dollars for direct COVID-19 response. 

These funds will support the men & women on the front lines of our Police & Fire Departments, fund critical food services for Knoxville residents, and allocate $500,000 immediately to United Way’s COVID-19 Relief fund to help our community weather this storm. 

I’m pleased to announce that our $500,000 commitment to United Way today has already leveraged another $500,000 by other private donors.

Thank you -- to all those who join us in funding this community response effort. 

In coming months, we also expect to receive approximately $2 million dollars from Federal sources to help local communities in responding to COVID-19. 

We know many families are worried about paying your rent or mortgage right now. That is why we’re designating the largest share of these Federal funds -- over $1.1 million dollars -- to support our residents through direct housing assistance.

In the coming weeks---we will be communicating how you can apply for these additional funds.  

We’ll also be supporting programs to serve those facing homelessness and workforce development efforts to help our residents navigate long-term economic changes.   

In laying out this proposal, we also know needs will continue to evolve. Our response as a City will no doubt need to evolve in turn. 

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In conclusion, we are looking at a challenging year, with a significant drop in revenue.  

This was not an easy budget, but we know these are not easy times. 
I thank all of Knoxville’s residents and businesses for making tough decisions every day for the good of the entire community. 

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We all miss gathering together in our beautiful parks,  visiting downtown for First Fridays, dining in at our favorite restaurants….and even simple gestures like handshakes and hugs.

But we will get through this.  Even when apart, together, we can stand tall.