Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Knox Co. employees offered incentive buyouts; about 90 to 100 eligible

Knox County is offering voluntary incentive buyouts to some of its long-time employees in what officials are calling a cost-cutting move that could save at least $1.6 million annually.

“It’s a cost-saving measure as well as an effort by the mayor to reduce the footprint of government,” said Michael Grider, the county’s communications director. "It's part of the mayor's conservative fiscal philosophy."

The county made the offer last week to some 800 employees but the plan will more than likely affect only 90 to 100 workers, said finance Director Chris Caldwell.

The move could "conservatively" cost about $1 million, but also save $1.6 million in that first year.

The goal, however, is to trim staffing by 25 to 50 positions, Caldwell said.

"Each employee has to determine if they want to apply," Caldwell said. "We are not targeting jobs. We are seeing who applies and then which positions those departments or fee offices can live without."

To qualify, employees must have at least 15 years of fulltime service with the county, a fee office or the sheriff's office. The buyouts do not apply to the school system.

The position also has to be one that goes unfilled or if it is filled, then the another job must be cut.

“The idea is not to let people retire early and incentivize that and then have to refill the position,” Grider said. “The idea is to save money.”

Employees who are approved will receive: three months of salary; a $300 payment for each full year of service; $3,000 to assist with medical coverage transition; health insurance for six months; and payment for accrued and unused vacation time.

When asked what brought about the move, Caldwell said: “The mayor is always looking for ways to save money and reduce government. It is not uncommon. The state has done this program in the past. It’s very similar to that."

Employees have until March 3 to apply. Caldwell said a number of workers have submitted requests so far but officials have not begun processing them.

Knoxville City Council delays voting on self-pouring ordinance for now

Tuesday night's Knoxville City Council meeting featured a spirited debate over ordinances regulating who can and cannot pour a beer.

A group of hopeful Knoxville business owners tried to explain the potential new market at the two-hour meeting.

"It’s not a free for all. It's not open taps where you pay $20 to get in and you drink until you fall down," said Pour Taproom founder Nate Tomforde. "That's absolutely not what it's about."

Pour Taproom operates in three cities, and a group of owners wants to put a new one in Jackson Terminal in the Old City. Their proprietary technology allows beer drinkers to pour and pay by the ounce. Encouraging sampling, but cutting users off once they reach a certain limit set by the business.

"I don't think any of us were familiar with a self-pour bar,” said Councilman George Wallace.

After discussion, the city council voted 8-1 to postpone the voting on the ordinance in hopes of crafting an ordinance that would better regulate this type of business.

"The stop-gap measures they've put in to protect themselves and protect the public, what they've come up with is very ingenious,” Wallace said.

"It’s kind of flattering, that they're looking at us as a model of how they'll shape the ordinance in the future,” said Pour Taproom Knoxville CEO Joel McLead.

The group behind the Knoxville location will continue working in hopes of opening in the spring.

"The lease is signed, the coolers are ordered and the taps are on their way,” said McLead.

If the business opens before the new ordinance is approved, they will have bartenders pour beers, which would require more man power. However, McLead said that's not going to stop the business from opening.

Parents express desire for community based schools at public meeting

Dozens of parents and community members, primarily from the Hardin Valley community, met with Knox County Schools administrators Tuesday for another informational meeting about possible middle school redistricting due to the new Hardin Valley and Gibbs middle schools.

The main message from parents attending the meeting was a desire to keep community together in the same school. More than one parent said they purchased their current home because they wanted their kids to go to Hardin Valley schools.

Previous: KCS: New middle schools will change school enrollment zoning

Asked whether the district would reevaluate other school zones after the middle school redistricting process is complete, Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas said it's possible the district would look at other schools zones in the future.

"We don't have a specific plan to open up high school and elementary school zones right now, but we may need to do that," he said.

Thomas told attendees the district needs to have the new schools' administrators in place at least a year before the schools open, if not sooner.

"We have talked about trying to appoint the principal this spring," Thomas said.

Previous: Middle School rezoning meeting discusses new Gibbs Middle

There are two more rezoning meetings scheduled for Jan. 24 at Holston Middle School and Jan. 31 at Vine Middle School. The primary focus of those meetings will be the new Gibbs Middle School.

The district has said a second round of meetings will be held this spring to present a rezoning proposal.

People can also email questions and concerns about rezoning to

Monday, January 16, 2017

Boyd 'considering' 2018 run for gov

Knoxville businessman and baseball team owner Randy Boyd “is considering” plans to announce his 2018 candidacy for governor within the next month.

The move comes as the longtime philanthropist and Republican steps down as the state’s economic and community development commissioner to return to the private sector.

"Most people are encouraging me to run, so it's something I am considering,” Boyd told WBIR 10News Monday. “It's a big sacrifice but there are so many things Gov. Haslam has started like the ‘Drive to 55,’ like the commitment to helping our rural communities. I want to make sure that momentum continues. If I were to run, it would be to make sure that happened.”

Incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is term-limited and leaves office after 2018.

Other top Republicans rumored to make a run at the job include two members of the U.S. House of Representatives – Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn – and state Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.

In addition, state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, has filed the paperwork to run.

On the Democratic side, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Nashville businessman Bill Freeman are rumored to join the fray.

The gubernatorial general election is set for November 2018.

Boyd announced last week that he was stepping down from his job as Haslam’s go-to person for economic growth and development in order to return to the private sector. He leaves at the end of the month.

Boyd heads Radio Systems Corp., which he created, develops area real estate and also owns the Tennessee Smokies AA baseball team. He also chairs tnAchieves, the partner organization to Tennessee Promise.

Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor, tapped Boyd in 2013 to serve as a special adviser in higher education, part of a strategy to boost post-secondary training of the state's workforce.

Haslam has previously credited Boyd with bringing some 50,000 jobs to the state and $11 billion in capital investments.

In 2013, he served as the special advisor on higher education to the state where he spearheaded the Drive to 55 initiative and Tennessee Promise.

Boyd told WBIR that on Monday alone he was approached seven times from people asking him his future political plans.

He told 10News that he plans to take the first couple of weeks of February to decide if running for governor is right for him.

"Most of the concerns are personal,” he said. “The travel, the being away. But as far as the work is concerned, I'm very comfortable that I could do the work. I'm excited about the progress we've made in education, the progress we've made in economic development, progress to help our rural communities. Those are the things that would energize me to do it.”

He added that at one time he felt campaigning was tedious, but he now feels it’s a way to meet people around the state.

"The more I've thought about it the more I've thought about it it's really governor training school,” he said. “You're basically spending your time out talking to people. If I were to run, I know I'm not the best speaker in the world, I'm certainly not the best debater. But I'd like to strive to be the best listener. Just being able to travel around the state and be a great listener and hearing people's concerns I think it would be really fun and rewarding. I think it might be something I would really enjoy.”

Q&A with Council candidate Tindell

We did a short interview today with former state Rep. Harry Tindell who announced his intentions to seek a city on the Knoxville City Council. Tindell, a Democrat, served in the state House for 22 years before opting not to seek re-election in 2012. He served on the Knox County School Board from 1986 to 1990 before joining the Tennessee General Assembly.

Here’s a snapshot of the discussion:

Getting back into politics.

I served in local and state government for a number of years, but I’ve been out – this is the fifth year – but I’ve been watching and I have kind of a yearning to get back involved. I’m passionate about helping the community

On previous political experience.

Well, the things I did in Nashville were all locally relevant. Education – I was on the state and local government committee for 22 years and chairman of the local government committee. All local issues that you read about – they all start in Nashville – so I’m very familiar with local governmental issues.
Then I finished up my career in Nashville as the chairman of the budget committee. That was of course good experience because you can’t run a government without a good budget.

On whether he has a specific platform.

I would say it’s two things. I am from the district . . . (and) I know the district very well. Two, the City of Knoxville is humming along at a really nice pace. Things are going good at Market Square, development, jobs, everything is going well here. What I say is that I’m not here to break the mold. What I want to do is build on the good things that we’re already doing – make it better, take it to the next level.

On specific changes.

I think like all residents there’s some things you would tweak. Broadway – you can’t talk about it or all the north Knoxville arteries without talking about the traffic congestion. At some point, we’ve got to address that . . . . I want to talk to the residents and here what they have to say and take their views to the council as well.

On a tax increase.

I don’t think we need that in the present situation. Like I said, the city is well managed. They’re doing the things they need to do. I think you have to look at things as they develop but there’s no reason to raise taxes in the present based on what I’m seeing.

On development in the district.

I’m like everyone else. Know that if you drive to Turkey Creek you see a lot more choices of stores and restaurants than you do on this side of town, and I think the people over here deserve the same opportunities. Of course if the businesses are willing to come, we need to do everything we can to make Knoxville hospitable for businesses, so that we can grow the economy. I think downtown is a perfect example. Look at Market Square. You can’t get in a restaurant without a reservation sometimes. The movie theater was a big hit. We need to spread out from downtown and make the Broadway corridor, the Chapman High way corridor, Knoxville Center and all of Knoxville great.

On whether he will face criticism for holding public office for a long time

Well, I won the elections, I didn’t lose them, so I think there was some level of support from the people in the community. And I hope people will recognize that experience might be valuable I this coming period. And I’m offering myself to the voters and hopefully they will see it and elect me to the council.

On moving from a state-held elected office to the local level.

I don’t see the City Council as a demotion as any stretch – it’s important, it touches the residents of Knoxville in a big way. There were times in the state House delegation  . . . I was the only one who had an all-city district so I have a real understanding and appreciation for what the city does for the residents. There’s an opening here and I think experience might be helpful for this present time.

On being a Democrat.

When you go to Nashville you pick a party . . . . The City Council elections have historically been absolutely non-partisan and people don’t talk about it that much. It’s about the people – it’s about the neighborhoods, it’s about the community. I can serve and represent Republicans Democrats and independents.

Former state Rep. Tindell to run for Knoxville City Council seat in 2017

Harry Tindell
Former Knox County School Board member and long-time state Rep. Harry Tindell announced on Monday his intention to seek the 4th District seat on the Knoxville City Council.

“I have lived most of my life on one side of Broadway or the other,” said the former 11-term Democrat, who opted not to seek re-election to the state House. “I have been honored to serve parts of central, north and east Knoxville in the past, and I will bring the experience and knowledge I have gained to the city council if elected.”

Nick Della Volpe, who currently represents the 4th District, is term-limited. The seat is non-partisan.
Tindell, 56, is a life-long Knoxville resident and served on the Knox County School Board in 1986 to 1990 before heading over to the Tennessee General Assembly for 22 years.

The election in November will bring five new faces to the city council, and in 2019 the remaining four council seats and the Mayor will be replaced due to term limits.

“In recent years, we have made tremendous progress in the quality of life and the economic vitality of our community. It will be important to have new city council members with varied experience in this period of change,” said Tindell.

He added: “I look forward to making my case to the voters that I can bring the vision, knowledge and passion to the office that will build on our success and to continue moving Knoxville forward, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen our neighborhoods and communities.”

Tindell has spent time in the private sector as an employee benefits insurance broker and a state government relations consultant.

The non-partisan primary is set for late August.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

12 local state lawmakers gather for legislative luncheon, take questions

On Saturday afternoon, a panel full of lawmakers came together to address issues they're representing this legislative session in front of journalists who cover the issues they discuss. 
More than 70 people attended the East Tennessee's Society of Professional Journalist's annual legislative luncheon.
"This was one of the largest crowds I've seen at this gathering and it's that the general public is really engaged in what's happening right now in Nashville," Representative Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) said.
With the legislative session underway, lawmakers addressed plenty of issues on the table, including highway infrastructure, gas tax, open carry law and seat belts on school buses.
"We need to do something but the question right now is what do we do?" Smith asked regarding seat belts on school buses.
Smith said having seatbelts on school buses sounds great, but lawmakers have to look further into the law, not only because of the cost, but because of potential negative consequences. 
"Whenever we look at a law, we have to look at what are the intended but what are the unintended consequences of any law," he said. 
Representative Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) says it will take research to figure out what's best.
"Then it's up to us to find the funding and the revenue to pursue whichever statistically is the best solution for the safety of our students," Ramsey said. 
Another hot topic brought up was a letter sent to the president of the University of Tennessee opposing job outsourcing plans.
"They are not asking for much. They are asking for job security and they are proud to serve the State of Tennessee so I think it's only right to support those that have been working so hard for the university of Tennessee and other state institutions," Rep. Rick Staples (D- Knoxville) said. 
From seat belts to outsourcing, the conversation on big issues continues for these lawmakers in Nashville as the legislative session has just began. 
"It's important that they get to see who we are a lot of times it's just a name and see what we think about certain events, certain topics, and laws that are coming into place or action or consideration," Smith said.

Two dozen apply to be the next Knox County Schools Superintendent

In a last minute rush Knox County Board of Education members were hoping for, the number of applicants for Knox County Schools Superintendent jumped to 24 just before the end-of-day deadline.

On Friday morning, there had only been 11 applicants.

The deadline to apply closed at 4 p.m. Friday. There are 24 official applicants, with one additional application that wasn't completed.

There are two internal candidates and at least one other local candidate, according to KCS spokesperson Carly Harrington.

"I sensed a little bit of panic earlier in the week," said Patti Bounds, Chair of the BOE.

More: List: Knox County Schools Superintendent candidates

On Monday, member Amber Rountree, who is also overseeing the three-person superintendent search committee, said she hoped more people applied by the end of the week.

“I would like to see some more folks and I have heard there are more folks planning to apply, and they just haven’t gotten their material together,” she said.

The committee responsible for the search is made up of Rountree, Tony Norman and Susan Horn.

Friday morning, Norman told 10News he was hopeful there would be more than 11 applicants.
"I especially hope we'll get a few internal candidates," said Norman.

The names of the two internal candidates were not immediately available.

There is at least one local applicant. Dale Lynch, who currently serves as Hamblen County Schools Superintendent, applied Friday morning.

"I had heard he was going to apply and I'm glad he did," said Bounds.

Receiving 24 applicants for this position is a 'win' for the board, who went about the recruiting process differently than they had in the past.

"I'm excited about the process. This is a little bit different than it's normally done. Many school systems in our area use outside search firms," said Bounds.

Outside search firms can cost up to $80,000. Knox County Schools used one in 2008, when Dr. Jim McIntyre was selected.

Bounds said not using an outside search firm will give them more control over the candidates.

Norman agrees.

"Sometimes those search firms also have some preferred candidates, so they'll eliminate people on their side before we even get to see them," said Norman.

On the morning of Jan. 17,  the three-member search committee is scheduled to look at who has applied. Rountree says the goal is to identify perhaps five solid candidates from among all who have applied and go from there.

Norman says the people in his top five will be applicants who have "a heart for the classroom" and "significant administrative experience and experience with large school districts."

Bounds agrees with Norman's desire to have a superintendent with classroom experience. She also hopes their new chief will have many of the leadership qualities Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas has.

"He is very much a servant leader. He understands the role of the board and of the superintendent," said Bounds.

For now, the superintendent search is closed. However, Bounds says it could reopen at any time if the current applicants are not up to standards.

Bounds said the hope is to have a new superintendent in place by summer, but are willing to sacrifice that timeline for the right person.

"More importantly is getting the right person. The last two left without completing their contracts and I don't want to see that happen again," said Bounds.

List of 24 superintendent applicants

At the end of the application period on Friday, 24 people applied to be the next Knox County Schools Superintendent. Below is a list of the 24 applicants.

Susan Compton

Superintendent of the Atlantic Highlands, Highlands and Henry Hudson School District in Highlands, New Jersey. Compton previously served as the superintendent for the Russell Independent School System in Russell, Kentucky. In 2013, Compton was selected as one of the finalists for the Oak Ride school superintendent position.

Bob Thomas

Assistant superintendent for administrative services with Knox County Schools. Thomas attended The University of Tennessee and has worked as an educator in Knoxville since 1973. Thomas has served as the Knox County Schools assistant superintendent since 1990. Thomas was selected as a finalist for the superintendent position back in 2008.

Tryvan Leech, Sr.

Executive Director of State and Federal Programs for Youngstown City Schools in Youngstown, Ohio. Leech has worked in the education system since 1996, starting as a science controller and working up to principal of Youngstown City Schools in Ohio in 2014.

Carrmilla Young

Superintendent of Agape Public Charter Schools out of Fresno, California. Has served in various administrative positions over the years, including as principal of Fuller Elementary School in Chicago for three years. Earned her master's in education in 2009 at Walden University in Minneapolis.

Jon Rysewyk

Interim Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer for Knox County Schools. In 2014, Rysewyk was unanimously named as the founding principal of Emerald Academy after serving as executive principal of Fulton High School from 2008 to 2012. He earned his master's degree in education from the University of Tennessee, and has served as an educator since 1999.

Stuart Greenberg

Chief Academic Officer for Leon County Schools in Tallahassee, Florida. Greenberg is a longtime Florida administrator and has been looking to move up to a superintendent position. In 2015, he applied for a superintendent position to lead Metro Nashville's school system.

Duran Williams

Serving as Unified Services Director for Tennessee Education Association since 2014. Williams oversees District 4, which includes Knox County Schools, Pellisippi State Community College, the Tennessee School for the Deaf, and the University of Tennessee. He earned his doctorate in education administration and policy studies from the University of Tennessee. He's served in a variety of administrative positions, including being the longtime principal of Cosby High School in Cocke County.

Ronald Blair, Jr.

ESE Inclusion Teacher for Jesse Keen Elementary School in Lakeland, Florida. Blair studied public relations and earned his master's in special education at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. He has worked primarily in Florida, serving as a special education teacher since July 2005.

Andy Spears

Adjunct Professor in public administration for Tennessee State University. Spears has a long-standing background in government policy advising and non-profit leadership. He created and runs Spears Strategy and Strong Schools, two advocacy agencies.

Timothy Gadson

Executive director, curriculum and schools for Robbinsdale Area Schools in Minnesota. Gadson previously served as the associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia. Gadson has served as an educator since 1993, starting out as a teacher at Woodlands Middle School in West Palm Beach, Florida. He earned his doctorate in higher education administration at Washington State University.

Teresa Lance

School leadership officer for Harrison District 2 Schools in Colorado Springs. Has served in educational leadership positions, including principal of Community Education Partnership in Houston, an alternative school for at-risk students.

Mark Chandler

Superintendent of Des Moines Municipal Schools in Des Moines, New Mexico.

Elizabeth MacTavish

Clinical Assistant Professor for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Sonia Diaz

Chief Academic Officer for Framingham Public Schools in Framingham, Massachusetts.

John Stoddard

Principal for Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dale Lynch

Superintendent of Schools for Hamblen County Schools System in Morristown.

Ronnie Dotson

Superintendent of Schools for Carter County School District in Kentucky.

Catherine Beck

Assistant superintendent of the 3,500-student Summit County School District in Colorado.

Cedrick Gray

A former ‘superintendent of the year” by the National Association of Superintendents, Gray stepped down as leader of the Jackson Public Schools, a 28-000-student system in Mississippi. He previously worked as the director of schools in Fayette County in West Tennessee but left in 2012 after questions about financial discrepancies in school spending arose.

Andrei Ghelman

Secondary coordinator for the 47,000 student, 59 schools Collier County Public Schools in Naples, Fla. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. He previously worked as a teacher and principal for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.

Thomas Graves

An educational consultant since 2010, he also served as the assistant superintendent of Washington County Schools in Abingdon, Va. From 2006 to 2010.

Tonya Harris

Superintendent of the St. Louis charter school Preclarus Mastery Academy. The school, which for years had a high student absentee rate, has seen some improvements. Harris previously worked as an assistant principal in for District of Columbia Public Schools.

Andrè L. Wright

Learning Community Director for Aurora Public Schools in Colorado. Prior to assuming an executive role, served as principal of Woodland Middle School in Fulton County, Georgia. Wright earned his master's in educatioal leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.

Robert Vick

Principal for Parrotsville Elementary School in Cocke County.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Senators talk $925M surplus 'myth'

State lawmakers keep talking about a so-called $1 billion surplus, but two key members of the local Legislative delegation say the number is more a myth than a reality.

As it stands, the state might have roughly $925 million in extra money this year, but much of it has already been allocated.

The topic is part of this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.

The guests are Knoxville Republican state senators Becky Duncan Massey and Richard Briggs.

The discussion comes as the General Assembly convened on Jan. 10.
Briggs said Gov. Bill Haslam’s finance team met with state lawmakers recently to talk about the surplus.

Briggs and Massey didn’t want to get into too much detail, but both agreed that there is roughly “$100 million to $150 million” that hasn’t been allocated.

“I call (it) a little bit the myth of the myth of the one billion dollars,” Briggs said. “At this point, there’s going to be about $200 million – I don’t want to go into some of the details – that’s going into education. We have some of the built-in increases that happen every year due to the TN Care increase and we forget that with this affordable care act, we had about 60,000 or 70,000 people that were in the woodwork who are eligible for TN Care that never signed up for it. They’re forced to do that now or they’ll take a penalty.”

He said money also will go to “completely fund our retirement fund” and paying “back the other half that we borrowed back earlier in the 2000s when we had some deficits from the road fund.”

“We did half of that last year – we’re going to do the other half this year. That’s no secret. That’s about a 120 or $130 million . . . and then we have the investments we need to make on building maintenance that’s been delayed over the years,” Briggs added. “One other thing when we talk about all of this money that’s important – we do have some cash in hand but much of those are projections and we really don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy. If it projects out then we will have more money but it’s all not discretionary that we can spend.”

Massey said the surplus came from a “combination of fiscal responsibility” and revenues from business growth.

“Part of the surplus is in recurring dollars which there is a number of pots that almost take it before we even get to look at it . . . and then about half of it is non-recurring, which can be used more for short-term projects,” she said. “But I can guarantee you there’s a lot of people who have some wonderful ideas and significant needs and we’ll have to look at what’s the best return on the investment.”

The 30-minute political and public affairs program, which was taped Thursday, kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WBIR.

Panelists include WBIR reporter Mike Donila, attorney Don Bosch and governmental relations specialist Susan Williams.

WBIR Anchor John Becker serves as the show’s moderator.

Knoxville Beer Board working to stop alchohol sales to those under 21

On Thursday night, Knoxville's beer board met to address what they say is a community health concern - minors across the city buying alcohol at an alarming rate.
According to the Metro Drug Coalition one third of Knoxville high school students reported trying alcohol.

"There’s not one particular area this is a citywide problem,” said Beer Board Chairman Brenda Palmer.

The Metro Drug Coalition presented KPD data comparing compliance rates in 2015 and 2016 that reflects the number of businesses cited for selling alcohol to minors. The number of beer stings went up by more than 100 when comparing the same time frame.

"We want businesses to be successful in the community but they also have a responsibility to the community,” said Metro Drug Coalition Executive Director Karen Pershing.

Businesses that sell to minors are subject to fines and stiffer penalties for repeated offenses.
Along with MDC, two groups presented plans to help Knoxville businesses check IDs and stay on the right side of the law. Along with new technology board members also discussed increasing fines and deterrents to stop businesses that continue to break the law.

"You can prevent a lot of this by training your employees on the front end,” said Pershing.

According to a city study, the businesses most likely to sell to a minor aren't liquor and grocery stores, but bars and restaurants where people consume alcohol on site.
Thursday's meeting began the process of forming a better plan to combat what the beer board says is real public health issue.

"You’re not a minor's friend if you provide them beer wine or liquor,” said Palmer.

On Feb. 7, the beer board will view the permit for a South Carolina business looking to come to Knoxville. The business wants to allow self-serve craft beer. But Tuesday night the city council will consider an ordinance that would ban self-serve beer.

Lawmakers to debate how to use an almost billion dollar surplus

An almost $1 billion budget surplus for the state of Tennessee may sound like a good thing, and many lawmakers say it's better than the alternative, others are pointing out that means more money should be staying in your wallet.
"If we've got a $1 billion surplus, we're obviously taking too much away from the public," said state Sen. Frank Nicely, a Strawberry Plains Republican told WBIR 10News.
Tennessee lawmakers expect to decide this session how to spend $925 million in extra money this year. It marks the third straight year the state has taken in more money than expected.
State Sen. Doug Overby, R-Maryville, doesn't think the total will end up being quite that high once other expenses come out.
"A lot has been made of having a budget surplus. The fact of the matter is, in any given year, there are some natural increases in the state budget," Overby said.
He said increases in Basic Education Program funding and TennCare typically take some of the surplus.
But there will still likely be money available at the lawmakers' discretion to spend.
"I think we have to look at spending it wisely. As the Governor said, 'Let's not be stupid rich, let's be smart rich,'" said state Rep. Eddie Smith, a Knoxville Republican.
Many lawmakers agree two major needs deserve priority: education and road improvements. 
"I would like to see teachers get a raise, K-12 teachers, and I'd like to see some of that surplus going toward road construction or road maintenance," said state Rep. Martin Daniel, a Knoxville Republican.
Niceley and other representatives didn't go into specifics, but suggest lawmakers should find a way to return the money to the taxpayers.
"I'd like to give it back to the people," said Nicely.
"I want to know what is the mechanism to not collect so much that we have a surplus because that means we're over collecting somewhere," said state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican.