Mayor Tim Burchett Remains Tough on Knox County Budget
By John Disque
Hallerin Hilton Hill discusses proposed Knox County Budget with Mayor Tim Burchett
There's no way around it: Not everyone is happy with County Mayor Tim Burchett's hard-nose approach. The proposed $650 million 2011-12 Knox County Budget is about to go to vote (3 p.m. Tuesday, July 14) and is expected to hit some opposition.
Hallerin Hilton Hill sat down with Burchett on Monday morning to speak about the proposed budget and take some calls from members of the community.
The mayor stated that he had to remain tough and pointed to the county debt, which has doubled since 2004. "Remember what you promised the voters," says Burchett.
With 1050 employees The Knox County Sherriff's budget is $67 million and the subject continued to arise. Apparently, the staff has not seen a pay raise in almost 4 years but Burchett points to increasing their benefits and budgeting the money for nearly 100 new cruisers. "I would like to give them raises, but now is not the time," Burchett says. "We just don't have the money."
The schools are seeing a 1% increase and Burchett points to the fact that the schools continue to cut other costs to justify the increase.
Many people have begun to question the cuts to organizations like Beck Cultural Exchange Center (Preserving African-American History) and Hope Resource Center (a religious organization dealing with unplanned pregnancies) to name just two. Last month Sam McKenzie (Knox County Commission) proposed an amendment to restore funding to the Beck Center which was cut from $150,000 to $12,000. The mayor states that he doesn't think it's the role of the government to fund these organizations.
Amy Broyles (2nd district County Commission) arrived on the show and outlined her amendment plan to give a $2.75 million raise to all Knox County employees. The money would come from reducing Burchett's proposal to use $5 million to reduce the county's debt. "Instead of $5 million for the debt we can use $2.25 million to reduce the debt and $2.75 to give the employees well deserved raises." Broyles states that all employee expenses such as parking and gas have increased so the employees are actually making less than they did in 2008. Broyles animated her statements by saying, "It's a priority to pay my mortgage, but I don't let my children go without shoes to pay more of my mortgage than I have to."
Broyles also states that it wasn't strictly her amendment, that she listened to many people and took the best of everyone's ideas and put them together.
J.J. Jones (Knox County Sheriff) eventually joined Hallerin and stated that if he's asked to speak tomorrow he will ask for raises for his staff and has an outlined "step-increase" while stating that he understands it's a tough year. Jones stated that relative to other counties the Knox County Sherriff's department is 21% underpaid as shown in a recent in-depth study.
Jones also didn't agree with a previous caller (an employee from the Sheriff's Department) who stated that they were being punished for a pension increase in 2008. Jones said he didn't agree because it wasn't just the Sheriff's Department that didn't receive an increase. "There's been no pay increases for any Knox county employee in well over 3 years."
Other commission members are expected to suggest that Burchett use "the $37+ million Rainy Day Fund" to fund the pay increases, but, as far as Burchett is concerned, it's not an option. "That money is for emergencies," he said.
The Knox County proposed budget is outlined and states:
• We will fully fund our schools, so your children continue to get a quality education, so they can compete in tomorrow's marketplace.
• We will continue to put deputies on the street to keep us safe.
• We will encourage economic development by improving roads and investing in infrastructure.
• We will cut our debt by more than $20 million annually for the next five years.
• We will protect the general fund emergency reserve.
▪ We will NOT raise taxes.
Detailed Proposed Budget www.knoxcounty.org
Proposed Budget Amendments – 2nd Revision
Published June 13, 2011, 3:22 p.m.
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