Transcript of Mayor Bill Haslam's speech on the proposed budget
City of Knoxville's fiscal year 2006-2007
April 27, 2006
West Hills Park
Good afternoon, thank you for joining us, what a beautiful day to
be living in Knoxville, Tennessee, I might be a little prejudiced,
but I think every day is a good day to be living in Knoxville and
I hope that you feel the same. One of my goals today is to outline
for you why it's a good deal to live in Knoxville and to share with
you how it's going to get even better.
We are here to talk about this year's budget, I believe a good budget
is based on the vision and goals an administration establishes and
I want to show you how our budget helps us reach these specific goals.
I want to thank my partners in City Council for their support and
input as we proceed through the budget process. As we worked through
our budget this year, I heard my staff say
.THIS is not a sexy
budget and they're right it isn't sexy. But it is a budget that keeps
us moving in the right direction.
And I believe we have the results to show that as a city, we ARE moving
in the right direction and the budget I present to you today will
keep us headed that way.
I'm convinced that good government is not always flashy or about the
next big project, good government is about setting goals based on
a strategic plan. My administration has established a plan called
"KNOXVILLE WORKS" with four major goals; First, Stronger,
safer neighborhoods, Second, City services you can count on at a competitive
price, Third, An energized downtown; everybody's neighborhood and
Fourth, More and better jobs. It's important that we accomplish these
goals while realizing that costs continue to rise faster than our
revenues, so we must always be looking for efficiencies in government.
You've heard me say this many times and it's not something that's
going to change. If not managed the cost of government will always
rise faster than the revenue.
Managing a city budget is a lot like managing a family's budget
numbers just have more zeroes behind them. We make money, we spend
money and we should be saving money. Just like your family, we want
to make enough money to provide for our basic needs, pay our debts
and save some money for unexpected expenses. Obviously the biggest
piece of our budget, just like yours, goes for providing the basic
needs; we'll talk about that in a minute.
But whether it's a family budget or a city budget, a smart budget
is one that has a rainy day fund and works to reduce its debt. 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 dollars
to $30 million dollars. By increasing our savings, we're able to do
more of the things we want to do, we have a firm foundation and money
to fall back on in case of an emergency.
Some of our fellow citizens in Middle and West Tennessee have suffered
greatly in recent weeks from devastating tornadoes, none of us know
when something like that will happen here, having a solid savings
account is good for our city. 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. Increased savings and lower debt are two very important
ways to keep our city moving in the right direction.
Let's now go back to those basic needs. Whether you're running a family
or a city, it's not easy to control spending, when the kids come in
and need new clothes, shoes, a new skateboard whatever
to make choices, set priorities and say no to some of the wants and
make sure you take care of the needs. We operate the same way. We're
presented with lots of great ideas and we have to say no to some things
we'd really like to do, but like your budget,
there's just never enough money to do everything we want to do. We
make choices and set our priorities based on the goals in KNOXVILLE
WORKS and I'm going to share our accomplishments and our plans for
the future based on these goals.
First, Stronger, Safer Neighborhoods
Our city is a compilation of its neighborhoods and neighborhoods are
a compilation of families. We take very seriously our #1 responsibility,
which is to protect the safety and welfare of all of our citizens.
That job falls primarily to the men and women of our police and fire
departments. Almost half of our city budget goes to pay for public
safety. It's important that we make every effort to recruit and retain
the best people available to serve as police officers and firefighters
and we'll continue to invest in training for them.
None of us want rundown, dilapidated houses or dirty lots in our neighborhoods,
one of our responsibilities as a city is to motivate people to take
care of their properties through our codes process. If that doesn't
work, we have programs in place to help rehab blighted properties.
There are times when problem properties demand immediate attention,
they are unsafe and unhealthy for the citizens in the community. Our
service department takes care of literally thousands of dirty lots,
houses and buildings that are dangerous and crime-ridden and pull
down our neighborhoods. It's a major source of complaints throughout
the city, in fact last year, city neighborhood codes enforcement inspected
more than 8,000 complaints. They also help with small projects like
roofs or windows or doors, sometimes a little help can make all the
difference in a neighborhood that's in transition. Last year we did
small rehab projects on more than 200 houses. We have some properties
that need more extensive rehab.
Over the last 2 and a-half years, we have given new life to over
150 houses and today I'm committing $200,000 more to this effort.
I want my team to have the resources to tackle this problem and
I want our citizens to know we're serious about cleaning up problem
Revitalization of our historic neighborhoods will always be a priority
with my administration, work has begun in Lonsdale and it's going
to be great when it's finished. As we work to revive to some of
our neighborhoods, we know that small businesses are an important
piece of the neighborhood. Our façade grant program helps
these businesses get a little lift that can change the way they
look and feel.
We're also very proud of the new shopping center in Five Points
including a new grocery store. Efforts like this can be a catalyst
for changing a whole neighborhood, this investment has been a public-private
We're having the Grand Opening for the Five Points Village Plaza
on May 5, and you're all invited.
We're going to spend more than a million dollars on sidewalks, this
includes building new sidewalks and fixing old ones all across our
city. There's no doubt this is an "A#1" priority for our
citizens as it is for me. I'd love to tell every neighborhood, yes
you're going to get a sidewalk, but sidewalks are very expensive,
so we select the locations that will help the most people
starting with sidewalks around our schools. We're also working to
make more of our sidewalks handicapped accessible.
Sidewalks are pathways and so are greenways. Our goal is to have
a greenway system that connects throughout the entire city and we're
well on our way to making this happen. We've added about four miles
of greenways and have plans for two and a-half more this year, including
the second creek greenway, which will connect the World's Fair Park
with the Waterfront, and is a partnership with the University of
Tennessee. In another partnership with Knox County, we're getting
started on the Knox/Blount greenway; this is an important regional
greenway and I'm very excited about it, this greenway will allow
us to walk, bike or run from various points in the city all the
way to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
My hope is that you're able to walk or run down a greenway into
one of our city parks. These parks are wonderful assets for our
families and they greatly enhance our neighborhoods. We've made
improvements to over 20 athletic fields - north, south, east and
west. We invest tax dollars in our parks, but we also look for private
investment opportunities. There's a great example right here in
West Hills Park. We've committed $25,000 for planning and design
money to renovate the Jack Murphy Tennis Courts, and the Greater
Knoxville Tennis Association is holding a fund raising campaign
to help raise the money to repair and upgrade the courts. This is
a good partnership. AND
in yet another partnership with Knox
County, we're getting closer to opening our new Skate Park in Tyson
Park, we're saying early Fall
.Councilman Chris Woodhull has
promised to teach Mayor Mike Ragsdale and me how to do a kick flip
so that we can bring our skateboards out for the grand opening.
We will continue to make money available for traffic calming. I
know that speeding through neighborhoods is an ongoing problem.
We've done a public service campaign to raise awareness and citizens
are working to figure out the best way to slow down cars on their
We believe these are all positive ways we can invest tax dollars
and make our neighborhoods stronger and safer.
Our second goal is City services you can count on at a competitive
What does this mean to you
.well it means that we're going
to provide services for you that only the city can provide and provide
it at a great value. The cost of providing the services we all want
continues to rise.
We pay some of the same bills that you do, you are paying more to
keep your homes warm, keep the lights on and to fill up your gas
tanks, well so are we. In fact, we'll pay $2 and a-half million
dollars more for energy and fuel bills this year. We've promised
an aggressive road paving schedule, since I've been Mayor, our engineering
department has paved over 100 miles of streets. This is a schedule
we want to maintain, but to keep paving close to this pace; it will
cost us a million dollars extra in this year's budget.
You've heard me say before that our city faces huge challenges when
it comes to fixing our drainage problems. There is a million dollars
in this budget for continued work on the First Creek Project in
North Knoxville, $1.1 million for Third Creek Restoration, $800,000
to fix a chronic problem at Cross Park Drive and $360,000 for other
neighborhood projects. This is just the beginning, but we must lay
a good foundation for the leaders who follow us.
As with any business our greatest asset and our greatest expense
is our employees, our total payroll is $80 million dollars including
benefits. Salary increases will cost us $1.5 million dollars and
we're putting $5.7 million dollars into the pension fund to keep
it fully funded, that's $1.6 million dollars more than last year.
These are all costs that we can't control, so we have to look for
other ways to save money so that we can keep your taxes low. One
way we've done this is by moving to a new health insurance plan
for our employees. It's a wellness plan; our employees get credit
for things like not smoking and exercising. We also offer preventive
checks for free and our employees have more choices in this plan,
so each employee can select the plan that works best for him or
her. By taking an innovative approach to our health care, we're
going to save $1 and a half million dollars. This plan encourages
our employees to live healthier AND it saves them money
think that's a good deal all the way around.
Speaking of a good deal, I promised to set up a 3-1-1 Call Center
to make it easier for you to access city services. 3-1-1 has been
operational for a year now and it's working better than I could
have imagined. I'd like to recognize our 3-1-1 operators
you please stand. Let's give them a hand. These men and women have
taken almost 200,000 calls since we opened the center.
from simple questions to logging complaints and taking calls for
service. I believe that 3-1-1 has definitely made us more efficient;
we can log our calls, see where the problems are and get them fixed
3-1-1 is all about accountability. I am a firm believer that when
we set goals and are held accountable, we all do a better job. That's
why we established a new review process for our employees and included
performance bonuses as part of that equation.
It's been a good year for the city, a lot of city employees worked
very hard to meet their individual goals and our city goals and
they've worked diligently to keep our expenses below budget. I'm
going to ask City Council to add another $300,000 to THIS year's
budget in addition to the $460,000 they have already approved to
reward the hard work of our employees. And I am budgeting $600,000
for performance pay bonuses in next year's budget. I want to send
a clear message that hard work pays off and high performers will
Our third goal is An energized Downtown; everybody's neighborhood.
As I walked over to the first Sundown in the City a couple of weeks
ago, I was really excited to see all the activity downtown. The
days of comparing us to other cities are over, no more "I wish
we could be like you "fill in the blank". Now our downtown
is something to be envied. Just look at what's happened over the
last two years
.the Tennessee Theatre is thriving
Bennett, Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard will all be here next week,
last year more people went to a performance at the Tennessee Theatre
than at the Grand Ole Opry, the Bijou will have its grand re-opening
on June 2nd, the cinema is under construction and the S & W
has been saved and will be a new restaurant, condos and retail space.
The Mast General Store opens in August, Protein Discovery, an entrepreneurial
start up business is headquartered on Gay Street, as is the most
popular radio station in the state, WDVX. The Candy Factory and
Victorian Houses are now in private hands saving the city $10 million
dollars. The Candy Factory will be a hot new address for city dwellers,
whose numbers continue to increase. We have 1800 people living downtown,
about 320 more will move in over the next year and 100 more units
are scheduled for construction and with all of this
still a waiting list to live downtown. That's what I call an energized
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." We can all be
very proud of the planning process for the South Knoxville Waterfront
project, it's been inclusive, open and realistic. On Tuesday night,
City Council approved the Vision Plan, and we're already beginning
work on the action plan, there's $1.3 million dollars in this budget
to start making things happen on the South Waterfront. In twenty
years when we've completed the South Waterfront, we project an investment
of more than $900 million dollars, mostly in private funds. What
a difference that will make in our entire city.
Our fourth goal is More and better jobs.
And we're creating major headlines under this goal. In March, we
announced that Sysco Corporation will purchase land in the I-275
Business Park to construct a 300,000 square foot complex. It will
be a $34.2 million dollar investment in the heart of our city. More
importantly, Sysco will employee 300 people at an average wage of
$50,000. This is a big win for our city. But there's more news,
in the first six months of this fiscal year, from July to December
2005, we've announced the addition of 440 jobs just in the city,
through business expansions, this represents almost $200 million
dollars of investment in our city. Expansion Management has ranked
Knoxville the 9th Best City for business growth. By creating jobs
and expanding businesses, we are able in increase our tax base and
keep taxes low. Growth translates into increased revenues; we need
this extra money to offset increased expenses and keep our city
healthy. As an investor in Jobs Now, we're committed to a regional
strategy, more jobs throughout the region mean more people will
live, work, play and spend money in the city of Knoxville.
Now I want to talk about something I am passionate about, improving
the quality of education. The city may not operate schools any more,
but we still make a huge investment in the education of our children.
Last year the city contributed $83 million dollars to the Knox County
Schools, that's what we spend on police, fire and public service
COMBINED, our three biggest departments. So we're contributing as
much to educate our children as we do to we provide for basic services
in the city
.THAT'S a lot of money. The City of Knoxville contributes
a greater percentage of its sales tax revenue to schools than any
city in the state. We should all be committed to County Mayor Mike
Ragsdale's Every School a Great School concept; very few things
impact our city, its residents and businesses as much as having
great schools. This ties directly into our fourth goal because an
educated work force drives the economy and creates more and better
We've talked about being productive and efficient. We're looking
for ways to do more with less and keep services at the highest possible
level. Like your family, we want to do all the things we need to
do and still have a little fun. It's been a good year in Knoxville,
we're presenting a budget that is responsible, pays the bills, puts
some money into our savings and let's us do some projects that move
us forward. We're going to provide good service and we're NOT going
to raise taxes, I guess I should have mentioned that earlier. I
believe the most important part of my job is to work to live within
our means as a city. I want us to be the greatest city in the country
we must do this responsibly and not at all costs. I am very sensitive
to the fact that we're all being hit with extra costs for the basics
in life, primarily utilities and fuel. This is NOT the year to add
to a family's burden by increasing taxes. I truly believe that our
city is stronger and on a firmer foundation because of the hard
work of a lot of people in city government, an involved city council,
our partners in government at every level and the support of our
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 city's to live, work
and raise a family.
Thank you for coming today.