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Burchett addresses Concord GOP

Declaring his relatively new administration already has “saved the taxpayers about $8.5 million,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett detailed larger chunks of those savings during a speech in Farragut last week.

“One of the big chunks we’ve got is refinancing a bunch of bonds; I think that’s around $3.8 million,” Burchett added during his address to Concord-Farragut Republican Club Thursday evening, Jan. 6, in a packed room at Seasons Café in Renaissance | Farragut.

Those savings will be realized during the term of the bonds, roughly 12 years, according to figures released from Burchett’s office Friday, Jan. 7.

“Another thing we did, we contracted out our pediatric and foreign language services,” saving $1.8 to $2 million spanning the next four years, according to administration figures.

Inside his own office, Burchett said “some pretty significant reductions” have been realized by cutting administrative costs “around 20 percent.”

Chief among that, according to administration figures, is an employee health benefit plan overhaul expected to save $1.7 million in 2011.

“Of course, we’ve done away with the parking and auto allowances, and made strides in reducing travel costs,” Burchett added Thursday.

One huge obstacle, Burchett said, “is $600,000-plus million” of county debt.

Concerning county bond refinancing, “We can free up some of our money and pay down some of our debt,” the mayor said.

One club member pointed out that Knox County is stuck with an $11 million per year school pension payout because the City of Knoxville “went out of the school business years ago.”

Burchett added, “You can’t take it away once it’s given. It’s a real problem.”

Other accomplishments Bur-chett cited included “restoring over 175 library hours and we still saved $40,000.”

The mayor added he’s against what was “a big push for a downtown library” in part because “we’re talking about laying off school teachers [yet] we’re going to build some monster so we can put our name on it?

“To me, the branch libraries are the core of government,” he added, “Because it’s where these single moms take their kids” to read.

With 62 percent of Knox County’s roughly $640 million budget going to education, Burchett said the county “needs to concentrate on making sure dollars get to the classroom.”

Burchett said he’d like to sell the county-owned Andrew Johnson Hotel building downtown — Knox County Schools system headquarters — “and get it back on the tax roll.”

Adding, “I don’t like government entities owning a lot of property.”

Concerning possible new business in Knox County, when a club member sought verification that Costco was coming to Knox County, Burchett said, “I can’t comment on that.”


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