Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs says he won’t veto the amended $850 million budget passed Wednesday by Knox County Commission, and he “hopes” to have the money to fund the $1 million change.
Sheriff Tom Spangler had requested a one-time $1,500 bonus for 820 of his 1,050 staff. He excluded chiefs and secretaries, giving the bonus to uniformed deputies and corrections officers. No county employees got a raise this year in a budget wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amendment by Commissioner Larsen Jay passed 7-2 with two passes. Voting no were Evelyn Gill and Randy Smith; passing were Charles Busler and John Schoonmaker. Jay said the bonus money would come from the county’s unassigned fund balance and be paid in early December.
Jacobs had attempted to compromise with Spangler, proposing a $750 bonus instead. Most commissioners were on board with the compromise, but Jay offered his amendment anyway. “The mayor can propose anything he wants, but it’s up to the commission to set priorities,” Jay said.
Brad Anders defended Jacobs, saying he proposed a six percent pay raise for deputies last year and four percent the year before.
Momentum shifted when at-large Commissioner Justin Biggs, his voice breaking, talked of his dad, retired Chief Deputy Eddie Biggs, missing his ballgames because he was working two jobs. “My dad gave 42 years to law enforcement. … You guys need this. $1,500 will make a difference. It will mean you can go on vacation. I stand with Commissioner Jay.”
Jacobs released a press statement afterwards:
“I too am frustrated that a lot of important projects had to be set aside. I’m frustrated that we can’t provide raises to our teachers and every single county employee who has been making personal sacrifices throughout this pandemic.
“Raising taxes would certainly be a way to alleviate those frustrations, but I said that I wouldn’t do that, and I won’t. It isn’t the time to ask taxpayers – many of whom are struggling themselves – to give the government more money. … I am just not comfortable with making promises now on an uncertain future.”
No other changes were made to Jacobs’ budget. Commissioner Gill voted against the tax rate of $2.12 per $100 of assessed value – a rate that’s not been increased for more than 20 years. “The rate is inadequate. We need to look at our budget and the tax rate needed.”
But this is Gill’s last budget. She was defeated in the Democratic Primary by Dasha Lundy. Michele Carringer, Hugh Nystrom and Anders also are departing after the Aug. 6 election. Incumbent Schoonmaker faces Democratic nominee Kimberly Peterson.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.