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Burchett vows change

Knox County Mayor-elect Tim Burchett said he’s uncomfortable with “synthetic” portions of the County’s financial outlook.

Giving new meaning to the term “landslide” by collecting 88 percent of the vote in the Aug. 5 County Election, Burchett said steering away from synthetic bonds to finance County debt could save millions.

The soon-to-be ex-state senator, who said he’ll work closely with a yet unnamed finance director, must tackle how Knox County will pay down its “roughly $600 million in debt.”

“Half of it is financed through fixed bonds, the other half is divided up between synthetic and variable rate bonds,” Burchett said. “With synthetic bonds, if it takes more than a couple of minutes for a lawyer to explain to you what it is, I think there’s probably a greater risk involved.”

A synthetic bond is a mixture of investments designed to mimic the cash flow and risk profile of a corporate bond.

“And synthetic bonds are just that, they’re what’s called derivatives, and derivatives have cost communities millions of dollars,” Burchett added. “I think we need to look at more traditional financing methods.”

It’s likely a wise expense, Burchett said, to hire a major firm specialist “for a couple of weeks, and in the process we could save millions of dollars to look at this debt structure.”

Burchett said he knows several such experts “who are nationally recognized,” but did not give names.

Concerning the mayoral office’s $1.7 million budget and the possibility of staff cuts and pay cuts, Burchett said, “I think you’re going to see that it’s going to start at the top. ... I think it’ll be a combination of reductions on both fronts.

”I don’t want to list specifics yet,” he added. “We want to make sure cost savings are involved. ... And, of course, we’re going to run everything through the legal department and make sure that that’s a viable solution.”

As for working with Knox County Commission, Burchett said, “I know them all; I grew up in Knoxville.

“Sure, we’re going to butt heads, but at the end of the day we will remain friends,” he added. “I learned that early on in Nashville. ... I think that develops a relationship, and that also develops trust.”

Burchett said the mayor’s office needs to improve upon “helping promote specific events in [commissioners’] districts.”

Other elections involving local seats found soon-to-be ex-state Rep. Stacey Campfield edging past Ron Leadbetter, 40 versus 36 percent, to become Republican nominee seeking Burchett’s vacancy in state senate, District 7.

Campfield will face Randy Walker, who earned the Democratic nomination, in November.

Mike Hammond, former District 5 County Commissioner, easily won the newly created Commission At-Large Seat 10.

Incumbent Commissioner Dr. Richard Briggs, District 5, was unopposed.


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