Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon’s proposed 2021-2022 budget, unveiled Tuesday, would invest heavily in public safety and affordable housing as well as giving City employees a 2.5 percent raise.
“A budget should be a clear, easy-to-follow roadmap that moves us as a city closer to where we want and need to be,” Mayor Kincannon said in a press release. “This budget reflects core values shared by my administration and the community, and it prioritizes spending accordingly.”
For the past 15 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the health and economies of communities worldwide. Knoxville was no exception. Despite a 2020-2021 budget marked by austerity, however, there were no layoffs and no lapses in City services, Kincannon said.
The proposed $384 million budget is nearly $50 million larger than last year’s but will require no new taxes, she said.
“As responsible stewards of public dollars, we tightened our belts. Everyone in Knoxville has sacrificed this past year – some more than others,” the mayor said. “I am not proposing any increase in property taxes in 2022. This proposed budget supports our community’s continuing recovery while we take big steps forward, together, toward our shared longer-term priorities.”
Kincannon said the proposed budget was shaped by five key priorities: public safety, healthy and connected neighborhoods, a clean and resilient future, thriving businesses with good jobs and good governance.
The new budget continues to invest heavily in the Knoxville Police Department and Knoxville Fire Department.
Despite recent controversy and the demands of police critics, KPD budget went up more than 4% to $60.6 million. KFD saw a similar increase to $43.9 million.
The budget also includes a $4.3 million commitment to local partnerships that support Knoxville by addressing specific safety-related needs and their root causes. These partnerships include the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, the Family Justice Center and KPD’s Co-Response Team.
Funds will also go toward new violence interruption programs, supporting health and mental-health service providers and assisting local non-profits that provide safe places and enrichment programs for young people.
Kincannon also emphasized the importance of affordable housing as Knoxville continues to grow. The proposed budget directs almost $8.2 million toward affordable housing and jumpstarts a 10-year, $50 million funding commitment for a new Knoxville Affordable Housing Fund, which the mayor will propose to City Council alongside her budget.
Major affordable housing investments proposed for next year include a $3.8 million contribution to the collaborative Austin Homes revitalization project and $1.5 million for Permanent Supportive Housing.
Kincannon said she remains committed to fighting climate change and protecting Knoxville’s natural resources. The budget will include matching grants for KAT to convert its fleet to all electric buses, funding for additional public electric vehicle charging stations and more than $4 million for stormwater infrastructure. Another $721,000 is marked to protect and expand Knoxville’s urban forest.
“A healthy economy supports a healthy community, and vice versa. This budget increasingly makes Knoxville a great place to work, to invest, to visit, to start a business and to raise a family,” Kincannon said.
According to the package of budget related materials released Tuesday, Kincannon’s budget proposals will create jobs and support employers. The budget also includes funding to support Latino and Black-owned business development and $900,000 to support local non-profits that support community schools and promote literacy and financial stability.
Referencing the City’s goals to increase the amount of business it does with diversity-owned businesses, Kincannon noted the budget’s support for an economic disparity study.
In accord with the December resolution of City Council to recognize systemic racism, the budget also provides $100,000 to facilitate the African American Equity Restoration Task Force.
“In everything we do, City employees are expected to act with integrity and transparency,” Mayor Kincannon said. “Our employees are innovative problem-solvers who deliver dependable, high-quality services while also demonstrating common sense and fiscal responsibility.”
As in past years, the budget includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for City employees.
Kincannon’s proposed budget will be presented City Council for first reading May 4. This will be followed by legislative budget hearings May 13-14. There will also be a public forum May 14. Council’s second reading of the budget is scheduled for May 18.
For detailed information on the proposed budget, see: knoxvilletn.gov/budget.