| Mayor Haslam proposes budget
focused on quality services
April 28, 2005 - Mayor Bill Haslam today proposed a budget for the City of Knoxville
that emphasizes neighborhood services that improve the quality of
life within the city and invests in projects that benefit the community
as a whole.
No increase in taxes is required to fund the proposed budget for the
2005-2006 fiscal year, although expenses like gasoline, utilities
and health care continue to rise. To balance the budget, city government
will continue to focus on gaining efficiencies to reduce expenses
and fostering a climate for economic development to increase revenues.
The budget reflects the administration's 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.
am convinced that if we focus our energies on these four goals, our
city will grow and prosper and we will be America's premier city in
which to live, work and raise a family," Mayor Haslam said during
the annual budget address held this year at Fountain City Park.
The Mayor noted that he spends "a lot of time listening,
whether it be at our Listening Tours, Walking Tours, neighborhood
lunches or other events. And there's no question about what
I hear - you want us to do a great job providing the everyday
Residents responding to a recent city survey ranked sidewalks
as their no. 1 priority. The Mayor's budget directs $1 million
to building and improving sidewalks. Priority will be given to areas
around schools where transportation is not provided, including Fulton,
West and Austin-East High Schools and Holston and Bearden Middle
The City's goal of paving nearly 50 miles of street annually
so that every street is paved at least once every 20 years will
be fully funded this year at $3.2 million, and significant expenditures
will also be made on bridge safety. Funding for projects that slow
traffic within neighborhoods is also included.
The Mayor noted that fixing drainage issues is an expensive proposition,
"but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't get started,
it will only get more expensive as time goes by." The budget
earmarks $2 million on drainage issues in the First Creek area,
on Emily Avenue, and across the city.
Mayor Haslam also emphasized the importance of partnerships to
leverage city taxpayer dollars.
The City will partner with Knox County to build a Skate Park for
skateboarders and explore the creation of a "One Stop Shop"
for planning, zoning and permitting services.
In Burlington and Lonsdale, the City will use city and federal
dollars to build sidewalks, add lighting, provide façade
grants and build new housing. Working with Knox County schools,
the city will extensively renovate Lonsdale Park.
The private sector is the City's partner in renovating buildings
at World's Fair Park to do some long-delayed maintenance and
draw more residents and visitors to the downtown location. The agreement
will net the City a financial benefit of $10 million over 10 years.
Mayor Haslam discussed the progress underway in downtown Knoxville,
including the opening of the Tennessee Theatre - now ranked in the
top 50 among venue theatres in the country - and a plan to turn
the lights back on at the Bijou Theatre. The City administration,
Regal Entertainment Group and Knox Heritage have also agreed to
a design for a premier downtown cinema that preserves the S&W
Cafeteria and increases additional retail space.
"Knoxville's downtown continues to shine," the
mayor stated. "We hope to have more exciting announcements
coming up very soon that we think will be a catalyst for even more
"The next step we want to take is to expand our downtown
to include the South Waterfront - we believe that's a
natural extension. There are so many possibilities across the river,
but we need to make sure it's done right," he said.
The City will commit $400,000 toward a master plan "to look
at what we need to do, what are the right uses for this valuable
riverfront property and what's the best way to develop it."
Making city government more efficient and customer-friendly will
continue to be a priority. The city is operating with fewer employees
without reducing services, and last year reduced the number of city-owned
vehicles and refinanced debt to provide significant long-term savings.
Through better management and more aggressive marketing, the convention
center has also reduced its operating loss by about $1 million.
Equipment for the City's new 311 customer service center is in place
and staff is undergoing training. This summer, residents will be able
to dial one number - 311 - to get help or answers to questions about
The next stop in the City's budget process is City Council, which
is expected to hold two workshops in late May. The City's fiscal year
begins July 1, 2005.
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