City's mid-term report shows financial improvement

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City's mid-term report shows financial improvement

Posted: 02/16/2006
Mayor Bill Haslam told City Council members Thursday that the "hard decisions we are making together" are paying off in improving the City of Knoxville's financial condition.

"I have said from the beginning that I don't think we can continue to run the city the same way, with expenses growing faster than revenue," Mayor Haslam said during a half-day discussion on the City's finances at the midpoint mark of its fiscal year. "We've made hard decisions together, made progress on the expense side and that strategy is beginning to pay off.

"If we think of this as a mid-term report card, then we're earning good grades. We're doing what we said we'd do." The Finance Department is forecasting that the City will end its fiscal year on June 30 with a balance of $5 million, increasing the total fund balance to about $30 million. That compares to last year's forecast that the City would end the 2005-2006 fiscal year with a balance of just $306,000, and have a deficit of $7 million by 2007-2008.

The current forecast predicts that deficit will not occur until the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Mayor Haslam noted that after he took office in December 2004 his administration promised debt-rating agencies that the City would balance its budget, not incur new debt in fiscal year 2006, and rebuild the general fund balance. The administration had made good on those promises.

The Mayor also brought Council members up to date on his strategic plan for the City - Knoxville Works!The first two goals - Stronger, safer neighborhoods and City services you can count on at a competitive price - both address neighborhood issues.

Building and repairing sidewalks near schools has been a priority in this year's budget. New sidewalks around Fulton High School are complete, and work is underway around Holston Middle School and Austin-East High School. Will Skelton and Riverside Greenways have been completed and work is soon to begin on the Lower Second Creek Greenway.

Drainage issues continue to be tackled, with several projects complete or nearly so, and a request for proposals for the First Creek Master plan is expected to go out this month.Forty-three miles of city streets will be paved beginning this spring, and motorists will continue to be encouraged to drive slower on those streets - especially within neighborhoods.

The City's 311 customer service center has "drastically impacted the way we interact with citizens," he said. "This has made life easier for our citizens because we now offer predictable service."The plan's third goal is "An energized downtown; everybody's neighborhood."

"There is a cultural, spiritual and financial reason downtown is so important and you're starting to see the benefits from that," he said. "When we first started two years ago, I thought this would be important and now I'm absolutely sure."

The South Waterfront holds similar potential, he said, noting that downtown's footprint is small and development opportunities are already becoming limited. "I do think the South Waterfront is a chance to dramatically change our city's landscape. This is much more than a South Knoxville project, this can have a real impact on our city."

The fourth goal of Knoxville Works! Is More and Better Jobs."I think most of you know that we stress a regional approach to jobs growth through Jobs Now - and I firmly believe that's the right approach. But I do want to share with you that in the first six months of this fiscal year, we've announced the addition of about 440 jobs just in the City. These are at new businesses and expanding businesses and represent almost $200 million of investment."

The Mayor closed by reminding Council that although the City of Knoxville does not operate a school system, the City does contribute $83 million in sales tax collections to the schools. He encouraged staff and Council to look for ways they can help improve schools. "If we want Knoxville to be a great city, we have to have great schools."