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Ragsdale outlines budget cuts


Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale outlined Monday for the Knox County Commission $12 million in budget cuts, which will be required if the Wheel Tax is repealed.

The tax is expected to generate $12 million annually.

“We have tried to do this as fairly as possible,” Ragsdale said. “Capital projects all across the county will be most affected, we have made sure the education of our children is the least affected.”

Under the outline presented by the mayor, 32 capital projects are shelved in all parts of the county, virtually all community grants are cut in half and every department in Knox County government will have to cut its budget.


“In many ways, this will halt much of the progress we are making for the future,” the mayor said. “But if we must cut the money, we will do so fairly and then do the best job we can with the resources we have.”

The elimination of capital projects excluding schools saves just over $72 million. The projects are funded from bond proceeds and their elimination saves just under $5 million annually.

Slashing community grants by half saves another $3.2 million. That means almost 100 community-based agencies that counted on Knox County for some level of support get only half of what they expected. And the pool available for such grants will remain permanently cut … full funding will not be restored next fiscal year.

The rest of the savings come from cutting all operating departments by 2 percent, excluding schools. Schools will be asked to cut only their administrative budget by 2 percent, with classroom functions not being touched.

Hardest hit by these reductions will the Sheriff’s Department, which will have to cut approximately $1 million.

“Every single project, program and community group that will be affected will mean services that will not be provided,” Ragsdale said. “It is painful to think of Knox County moving backward instead of forward. But we will live within our means.”

County Finance Director John Werner said local governments are affected by decisions beyond their control.

“For example, when state government gives teachers a much-deserved raise, it costs Knox County as much as it does the state,” Werner said. “Decisions made at the state and federal levels often have a direct bearing on our budget situation. ”

“If we must cut $12 million, we will do so,” Ragsdale said. “But no one should have any illusions about the impact. It will unfortunately be severe … and it will touch each and every portion of Knox County. We have been making real progress ... that progress will be slowed significantly.”

Ragsdale outlined the cuts for Commission and will discuss it with commissioners further as a special meeting set for Sept. 8.

Commissioners had expressed an interest in the impact of cuts given the possible repeal of the Wheel Tax.

 

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