Dumping out the notebook: 2014-15 Knox County budget

You just can’t get it all into 12 inches, you know?

Commissioners Amy Broyles and Sam McKenzie gave a pair of impassioned speeches yesterday while proposing a 21-cent property tax rate increase. Then, McKenzie

Commissioners Sam McKenzie, left, and Amy Broyles.

Commissioners Sam McKenzie, left, and Amy Broyles.

hammered commissioners who gave their reasons for not voting on a property tax rate hike. Pretty dramatic stuff, if you’re into local government. (And really, who isn’t, right?)

“I would ask that you not think about that next election, and shut down in your mind those robocalls and focus on the job you have to do today, right now, in this job,” Broyles said.

And she may have reached a couple of people, because her common foil, Mike Brown, softened somewhat. Broyles, a Democrat, often buts heads with Republican Brown – who is known to offer pretty fiery diatribes from his chair. (To wit – Chairman Brad Anders reeled Brown in a couple of times when he was interrogating Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre.)

But on Tuesday, after Broyles and McKenzie said they wanted commissioners to consider the raise for county employees, teachers and Sheriff’s Office workers, Brown and a couple other commissioners appeared ready to consider raising taxes.

It has been 15 years since a tax hike. Like, since 1999.

“I’m not going to vote for a 21-cent tax increase at this point, but I agree,” Brown said. “And this is my 6th budget up here also, and I think we are coming to the point where we will begin to see a little light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not today.”

anders

Brad Anders

Brad Anders said that the county budget has been increasing based solely on local growth in revenue.

“I’ve had discussions with people where there will be a time that that ends,” Anders said, “though I do agree that everyone who works for this county deserves a raise.”

Commissioners Richard Briggs, who represents SW Knox Co and parts of Farragut (more on this in a minute) said that a tax hike would put the crunch on

Richard Briggs

Richard Briggs

residents, some of them facing a tax increase from the city. He also said that the revenue streams have been failing because of bad business practices int he county – letting companies like Hackney and the Smokies baseball team leave town.

Norman also said he wouldn’t vote for the increase, which would pay for teacher raises, but that he supports teachers on the whole.

At this point, McKenzie gave the Republicans in opposition both barrels. He equated their positions to flawed logic.

“I can’t end global warming, so why not burn more coal?” McKenzie said.

Then this, as he addressed Norman’s position:

“I’m not going to vote for this, but teachers, you’re still my friends, right?”

And he gave it to Briggs as well, though not naming him directly. McKenzie compared his East Knoxville district – which includes some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods – to those in West Knox County, where many wealthy homes and new development are located.

“The distinguished commissioner from Farragut is trying to tell people in my district, the poorest district … the people from District One are talking to me and they’re saying, ‘Sam, I want more dollars for public education.’ They want to pay more.

“Don’t say that it’s going to be undue.

“Just say you’re not going to vote for this. Don’t come up with lame excuses, that’s what they are.”

Broyles chimed in too.

“Some of the excuses that I’ve heard were not just lame, they were condescending,” she said. “To those of us who represent the poorest people in the county. … Do we take care of the people in Knox County, or don’t we?”

Then Broyles personalized her point.

“There’s probably nobody out there (on commission) whose family income is less than mine. I’m willing to pay more,” Broyles said.

And more:

“It’s very easy to say no to this, and you can come up with a lot of lame, and as I added, condescending reasons to vote against it,” she said. “A vote for this is a vote for the employees of Knox County. And a vote against this lets them know how you stand.”

Commissioners shot down the substitute motion for the tax hike 9-2.

About Gerald

A reporter in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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