Mayor presents 2004-2005 budget
April 29, 2004 - Mayor Bill Haslam today presented a budget for 2004-2005 that "sets the stage for moving our city forward over the next four years."
"We want to be a city that provides excellent services, makes investments, takes care of people, and sets priorities," the Mayor said. "In the budget I present to Council, we will be doing the city's work with fewer people than last year, in fact, fewer than anytime in the last eight years.
"We're cutting the bureaucracy, but not the service."
The Mayor's budget is aligned with the administration's goals of stronger and safer neighborhoods; more and better jobs; and efficient and accountable city government.
New initiatives include a 48-hour guarantee to fix potholes and a 3-1-1 Call Center, where citizens can call one number in city government to receive help. The Call Center, the Mayor explained, will also make the city more efficient.
"We will be able to see where the needs are and if our resources are being used wisely," he said.
Other efficiencies proposed in his budget are: refinancing current debt to save $5 million; implementing a new performance measurement program to track the quality of city services; implementing a grant management process to track matching funds or operating expense before applying for grants; changing the city's medical services program at a savings of $86,000; eliminating the number of cars in the city's fleet; reducing the number of cars used by the police department and using more fuel efficient cars; and saving $500,000 through better management of the Convention Center.
Mayor Haslam said the budget addresses the administration's priority of building stronger and safer neighborhoods by committing $3 million to road paving and funds for sidewalk, ballpark and drainage improvements; and traffic improvements. "If we don't take care of the city's assets as we go along it will cost us a lot more later," the Mayor said. "In fact, right now we have some assets that have been neglected."
Creating a vibrant downtown is a priority for creating more and better jobs, along with funding for the Jobs Now! regional economic development initiative.
"A vibrant downtown translates into a vibrant city and we want to do everything we can to make downtown a premier destination," the Mayor said.
The budget dedicates $1 million to making the Sunsphere, a Knoxville icon, useable to tourists and citizens. The Mayor noted the city's current financial condition is a challenge.
In the past two years, the city has used its savings to balance the budget.
"I am fully committed to taking care of our city and making investments for the future and to quit borrowing from our savings account," he said.
The current budget has a $10 million shortfall.
"Our health care costs and worker's compensation claims have gone up over 15 percent annually and our pension costs for employees have also skyrocketed," he said. "In addition, we have a convention center, while a great asset, is also a drain on our finances. Those are the tough issues we faced as we prepared this budget."
The Mayor proposed a 35 cents increase in the property tax - or $5 a month for the average homeowner. He noted that adjusting for inflation the city's tax rate is less than it was 10 years ago.
"We think we're presenting a responsible budget that has built in efficiencies and investments," he said.