Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett asked permission to sit down when he visited Powell May 2 to discuss his proposed budget. The energetic mayor was winding down 12 visits in two days to all parts of Knox County. Powell was his last stop.
Burchett is proposing an almost $800 million budget for fiscal year 2017-18, up $26.8 million from this year’s budget. And that’s without a property tax increase. The bulk of the increase, some $17.6 million, will go to Knox County Schools. Another $3.1 million will fund upgrades in the Sheriff’s Office. Burchett is seeking a two percent pay raise plus a one-step increase for county employees. “Roughly a three percent increase,” said Burchett. “I wish we could do more.”
Construction of two new middle schools (Gibbs and Hardin Valley) has wrecked Burchett’s plan to reduce the county’s debt by $100 million with $20 million reductions annually for five years.
This debt has declined slightly since a high of $669 million in June 2012. In rough numbers, the debt was $631.6 million in 2013; $632.3 million in 2014; $622.8 in 2015; $614.9 million in 2016; with a projected debt of $662.4 million in June 2017.
At Powell, Burchett said 74 county employees took advantage of his voluntary workforce reduction – $4 million in annual savings. He said he’s been able to fund necessary programs without a property tax increase because of new business growth. “Businesses like doing business here.”