New budget spells out Farragut’s priorities

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

If you live in Farragut and don’t know about the many projects being undertaken by the town, you’ve watched too much “Game of Thrones.” These are big projects that have been anticipated for years, and they’re finally in the works.

One is the Farragut Community Center. The town purchased the former Faith Lutheran Church and is partnering with Knox County to convert the property into a community center and a senior center. The doors are expected to open late 2019/early 2020.

Another is the Campbell Station Inn. Exterior restoration of the house is now complete, and work will begin soon on a beautiful, park-like plaza around the building. It should be available for special events in late 2020.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently chose a plan for the undeveloped portion of McFee Park that will include a great lawn, a walking trail, tennis/pickleball courts, a basketball court, new restrooms and a pavilion. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

These are all expensive projects. Fortunately, they are all provided for in the town’s budget.

The board will hear the first reading of the FY2020 budget at its May 23 meeting, and the second reading is June 13. If you’ve ever wondered where our revenue comes from, or if you’ve written a letter to the editor about how Farragut should improve roads rather than build parks, this is your opportunity to become better educated. (Spoiler: The budget provides for both.)

Town Administrator David Smoak gave a preview of the budget presentation. The town is in good fiscal shape, he says. How good? Good enough that Farragut’s “savings account” could cover the cost of operations for an entire year without any revenue.

This is due to the economy’s strong growth, he says. “We’re trying to capitalize on visitors, and our future commercial development and sales-tax growth will give us positive momentum in the next five to 10 years.”

That growth means that the town continues to expand services even without a property tax. But does the town count on growth to fund projects like the community center and McFee Park expansion? Nope. The community center was made possible by a partnership with Knox County, Smoak says – neither entity could have done it on its own. And the park is a one-time capital expenditure for which the town has been saving for several years. The town’s budget will be able to absorb the ongoing operating cost of the project, he says.

The new budget does provide for better monitoring of the town’s aging stormwater infrastructure. Just as Farragut roads are on a regular paving schedule, there needs to be a schedule for updating stormwater structures, Smoak says. A camera that allows staff to see inside pipes to determine a priority list for repair/replacement is in next year’s budget. It also provides funding for road-improvement projects and sidewalks/greenways to fill in missing links.

The budget is a statement of the town’s financial priorities, and approving it may be the most important thing the board does each year. If you want to see where Farragut is headed, pay attention to the budget.

Wendy Smith, a former journalist, is public relations coordinator for the town of Farragut and writes The Farragut Insider for the town’s website.

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