Big money comin’

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

While Knox County Commission tries to kill the health board  and the legislature saves girls sports from guys willing to have a sex change just to play on the team, the federal government has dropped a ton of money on state and local governments.


And nobody seems to know what to do with it.

On Monday (3/22) Commissioners Charles Busler and Carson Dailey quizzed the county and schools finance directors about how much to expect and when.

According to the National Association of Counties (NACo), President Biden’s Covid-relief bill includes $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid available to counties and another $65.1 for cities. The report is here.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury would administer the payments to state and local governments, with half of each county’s allocation coming within two months of passage (March 11, 2021) and the other half coming no sooner than 12 months later, according to the report.

Dailey said his research shows Knox County Schools getting $114 million; Knox County general government, $92 million; city of Knoxville, $45 million; and town of Farragut, $10 million.

“We’re talking about a lot of money,” he said.

Ron McPherson

“We want to be very strategic … but not leave any money on the table, said Ron McPherson, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for Knox County Schools. “We can’t just drop this money into the budget.”

Busler nudged him toward building new classrooms to allow for distancing. Infrastructure improvements must relate to the pandemic and be approved by the state, McPherson said.

KCS already has received $50 million from the state to address learning loss and $13 million used primarily to reimburse teachers, along with “an initial” $15 million, presumably from the Covid-relief bill, McPherson said.

KCS spent $7 million from its fund balance to buy Chromebooks this year as 19,000 students went virtual in the first semester (leaving 38,000 in-person) and 15,000 went virtual in the second semester. “Massive work was required to rework scheduling.”

Chris Caldwell

Chris Caldwell, senior finance director for Knox County, expects to receive $46 million by May 12. “We keep searching for guidance,” he told Dailey.

“This is one-time money for one-time expenses. It can’t be used in the pension fund. … We know now that it can replace expenses related to Covid or that had economic impact. … We lost revenue from the courts and the hotel-motel tax.”

The county’s money can be spent for sewer, water and broadband infrastructure, but can it be used for roads and bridges? Caldwell has asked but has no answer. “Once we get the money, we will set it aside in a special account until we get guidance.”

Here are NACo estimates for money coming to area counties. The U.S. Treasury Department has not yet released official numbers.

  • Anderson County – $14.9 million
  • Blount County – $25.8 million
  • Campbell County – $7.7 million
  • Claiborne County – $6.1 million
  • Cocke County – $6.9 million
  • Grainger County – $4.5 million
  • Jefferson County – $10.5 million
  • Knox County – $91.2 million
  • Loudon County – $10.4 million
  • Roane County – $10.3 million
  • Sevier County – $19.0 million
  • Union County – $2.8 million

Tennessee’s big five

  • Shelby – $181.7 million
  • *Davidson – $267,084 million
  • Knox – $91.2 million
  • Hamilton – $71,333 million
  • Rutherford – $64,444

*City/county consolidations are eligible to receive funds from both the county $65.1 B and the city $65.1 B allocation. City allocation estimates produced by the Congressional Research Services.

Gossip and Lies

Sally Jenkins, writing in the March 25, 2021, Washington Post, said NCAA President Mark Emmert has vowed to get to the bottom of the “blunders” that led to disparate treatment of the women’s basketball tournament. “But to get to the bottom of it, just go straight to the top. No one has been a bigger perpetrator of this shell game lie than Emmert.” Jenkins, who has spent time in Knoxville collaborating on books with the late Pat Summitt, wields a wicked pen. For Emmert to say women’s basketball generates “no net revenue” is a tactic “in hopes of buying time for the wheelmen to start the getaway car.”

Bill Brock has died at age 90. I drove over to Carthage TN to cheer for Brock when he kicked off his campaign against Al Gore Sr. in 1970. Yes, we went to Gore’s hometown. Brash? You bet. Winners? Absolutely.

Randy Nichols would like to be U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee, but word on the street is that Biden’s Justice Department is looking toward Chattanooga for a good Democrat to replace former U.S. Attorney Doug Overbey.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

 

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