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Mayor Haslam presents budget in 2006Mayor Haslam Presents the Budget

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.

"Like 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 price.

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."