Knox County budget vote sets traps

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

How does a libertarian build a budget?
One brick in and two bricks out. Repeat.


Knox County Commission will vote June 6 in a special called meeting on the 2019-20 fiscal year’s general budget, the capital budget and the tax rate. Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ proposed $832 million budget with no property tax increase should pass easily. (Earlier story and copy of budget here.)

Jacobs managed to keep the schools, the sheriff and the staff happy. Too bad there’s no lobby for indigent medical care, mental-health services or extended hours at so-called community schools to engage parents and caregivers with kids and teachers.

After 19 years of no property tax hikes, expect four more from Jacobs. We’re skating past a brewing crisis in jail overcrowding. Sheriff Tom Spangler opted for 6 percent salary increases for non-administrative personnel. The school board should be able to fund a decent increase for teachers and support personnel.

Tim Burchett liked to give one-time employee bonuses of $500 or $1,000. That money did not become part of an employee’s base, upon which future step increases are calculated. In funding significant pay increases in his first budget, Jacobs will experience the wonders of “compounding” in his future budgets.

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Commissioner Charles Busler grilled Superintendent of Schools Bob Thomas about school overbuilding at this week’s commission meeting. Thomas said the school board has not discussed rezoning – which would be necessary to avoid new construction. Remember when Gibbs-area middle school kids were zoned for Holston? We all know how that worked out.

The county built three new schools during Tim Burchett’s eight years – Carter Elementary, Gibbs Middle and Hardin Valley Middle. Jacobs has proposed building three new schools in his first year’s budget – replacements for Adrian Burnett and Lonsdale and a new elementary school to relieve overcrowding at Karns and Hardin Valley.

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Jacobs offered an interesting answer when asked about his proposed $1.5 million cut to indigent medical care (a roughly 30 percent cut). This program serves 1,100 uninsured residents with monthly incomes of $500 or less. Most are single adults; many are widows.

As reported in the News Sentinel, Jacobs said programs like this are a community issue, not the government’s responsibility.

Don’t expect much argument from the commission, but somebody should say this (OK, I’ll say it): Knox County government is the community. It’s all of us, organized to pay for deputies and schools and roads and, actually, whatever our elected representatives vote to fund. Somebody should offer a budget amendment and force a vote on this. Lyndon Johnson offered a War on Poverty. Jacobs’ proposed cut to indigent care, coupled with the legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid, shows a Republican declaration of War on the Poor.

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Indya Kincannon says, if elected mayor, she will work with KUB to explore options to offer broadband internet as a public utility. Public broadband would give every Knoxvillian access to online classes and the ability to work remotely, she said. It would increase property values and attract new businesses. “It would be an enormous investment, but I think it is imperative that we make sure our communities work for everyone.”

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