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Ragsdale proposes seventh consecutive budget with no Property Tax increase
General government spending reduced for second consecutive year, funding for education and law enforcement increased


Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale- File Photo
Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale today unveiled his fiscal year 2009-2010 budget proposal in the annual State of the Community Address. For FY 2009-2010, Ragsdale proposed an overall county budget of $648 million. For the seventh consecutive year, the budget proposal includes no property tax increase. Currently Knox County has the lowest tax rate of any urban county in the state, a rate that is expected to be reduced further following the 2009 reappraisal. At the same time, the County’s bond rating was reaffirmed this year at AA+ by Standard & Poor’s, the highest in history.

Recognizing the difficult economic conditions affecting the nation, the Mayor continued to propose reduced general government spending. For FY 2008-2009, he reduced spending by $6 million. The new budget proposal maintains those cuts and further reduces spending by an additional $700,000. “We made significant cuts in last year’s budget, knowing that troubled economic times were ahead of us. Now, as a result, we are well positioned to weather the storm,” said Ragsdale. General government staffing has also been reduced by almost 13% under the Ragsdale administration, from 1,057 employees in 2002, to 924 employees today.



In his budget address, Ragsdale stressed the importance of continuing to properly fund public education, critical public health services, and core county services such as parks and libraries. “I encourage the Commission to consider this proposal thoughtfully and deliberately. As our families struggle with their own budgets, county services become more important than ever. Further cuts beyond the almost $7 million we have already proposed could seriously jeopardize our ability to deliver the services people need, at a time they need them the most.”



The budget includes $375 million in school funding, fully funding the proposal of Superintendent of Schools Dr. James McIntyre and the Board of Education. Under the Mayor’s administration, education funding is now $90 million more annually than when Ragsdale took office.



The Mayor also took note of the Knox County Health Department. Calling it “the state’s best health department,” he specifically commended the Dispensary of Hope program, which has collected $2 million in donated medications that have been used to benefit nearly 2,000 citizens.



Law enforcement remains an administration priority, with a proposed budget of just over $63 million for the Sheriff’s Office. The Mayor’s proposal provides an additional $1.5 million to support the Uniformed Officers Pension Plan (UOPP) and also includes funding for 16 additional police cars, the only new passenger vehicle purchases recommended this year. Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones originally requested 50 new vehicles, but in an effort to help the County reach a balanced budget, the Sheriff worked with the Mayor and Finance Department to trim the request.



As Knox County families spend more time close to home, local opportunities for sports and recreation are more important than ever. The Mayor’s FY 2009-2010 budget proposal includes funds to begin the phased opening of Tommy Schumpert Park, the largest new regional park in decades. Additionally, Knox County will break ground on the new Burlington Park, adjacent to the Burlington Library.



Knox County’s public library system is regarded as one of the most important community resources available. Library usage has seen a 10% increase in the past year and more than 150,000 of our citizens hold library cards. As families see disposable incomes reduced, public libraries are places they can find useful and relevant ways to entertain, educate and improve themselves and their families. The Mayor’s budget proposal ensures library services will be maintained at their present level.



Making the budget more citizen friendly is an administration priority, along with changes to promote closer Commission oversight. The FY 2009-2010 proposal recommends putting the Knox County Retirement and Pension Board “on budget,” meaning that County Commission would directly appropriate the annual operating costs for the office. In the past, these costs were taken from the various accounts managed by the Pension Board and were not subject to Commission approval. The Mayor’s proposal also includes an appropriation of $5.2 million to make all Knox County retirement plans actuarially sound.

The FY 2009-2010 budget proposal will be available on line at knoxcounty.org

 

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