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Mayor Haslam presents the BudgetMayor Haslam Presents the Budget

May 1, 2009
- Mayor Bill Haslam said today that his administration and City Council knew that good financial times eventually have to come to an end – and they carefully managed the city’s money to be ready for that day. 

As a result, despite the worst economic crisis in decades, Haslam said the city’s 2009-2010 budget will continue city services at current levels, maintain ongoing redevelopment efforts, and make significant investments in recreation facilities and infrastructure improvements among other things. 

The Mayor also said the city will do those things without having to raise taxes or dip into the city’s fund balance for operating money. 

Haslam made his remarks to several hundred guests gathered at Mary Costa Plaza for the Mayor’s Budget Luncheon, his sixth budget event since first being elected in 2003. 

“We have kept a grip on the reins,” Haslam said. “We have recommended, and council has agreed, to resist the temptation to spend all that was coming in and add to our fund balance during the past few years.” 

He said those savings - combined with practicing financial fundamentals like controlling costs and spending on some projects that save money in the long run - have left the City of Knoxville with a conservative budget but one that allows it to move forward. 

The mayor unveiled his proposed $165.3 million operating budget for fiscal 2009-2010, which runs from July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010. That figure is down slightly from this year’s $168.5 million operating budget. 

The numbers reflect the current financial reality. The city anticipates ending fiscal 2009 with about $3 million less in revenues than expected but has responded by cutting expenses by about $3 million. 

“I don’t think that you are going to be surprised to hear that I am proposing a conservative budget for 2009-2010,” Haslam said. “Locally, our economy is not slowing as much as the national economy but, it is slowing nonetheless.” 

He indicated the city plans to accomplish a lot with the funds. 

Haslam said the city would continue into the second year of its three-year plan to raise employee compensation to levels of those of comparable public organizations. That means the average raise for employees - who are doing more with less during challenging times – will be more than three percent. 

Haslam said the city will continue to fund its redevelopment activities including efforts in Downtown, Downtown North, on Cumberland Avenue and along the South Waterfront. 

Other proposed projects and investments include:

• $27 million in recommended capital improvements with about half of that going towards basic infrastructure like sidewalks, road paving and repairs to roads and bridges. The money is in addition to recurring funding for sidewalk and road work. 
• Allocating $1 million towards improvements for recreation centers, ball fields, greenways, the new downtown dog park and the Fountain City Skate Park 
• An $800,000 investment toward development of a Hope VI-type project that will ultimately replace Walter P. Taylor Homes 
• A new elevator for the Civic Auditorium Parking Garage 

Haslam also thanked City Council members Rob Frost, Steve Hall, Joe Hultquist and Barbara Pelot, and former Vice Mayor Mark Brown, who left Council earlier this year, for their service to the city. They have served on council since 2001 and will be leaving office later this year. 

Since 2003 the group has helped Knoxville reduce its debt by 25 percent and increase its fund balance, essentially the city’s savings account, from $18 million to $49 million.