Met with mayor Tim Buchett and the county's soon-to-be new finance director, Burton Webb, (as well as Big John Troyer, Casual Chris Caldwell and Big Sexy Grider) today to talk about a few things.
Part of that conversation was about the budget. Obviously the mayor and schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre have talked about the schools' whopping $47 million in coin request for next year. (Remember $35 of it is new, new money and the rest is natural growth.)
Apparently, McIntyre – according to Burchett – wanted the mayor to sell this plan to the public.
“Jim said if you vote for this you can win the next election,” the mayor said.
“I said: 'Look, I'll let you make your case for it,' and that's what I'm doing right now.”
Burchett said he'll present the budget to the County Commission in early May. He suggested that he would take care of “the $7 million shortfall we knew we would have,” referring to the folding paper that the federal government will no longer give the county.
He said that he told the superintendent not to rely too much on the Knoxville Chamber and concentrate more on counting heads and collecting votes. (I assume he was referring to the 11-member commission.)
“I've taken into consideration everything he wants but I'm not going to raise taxes,” Burchett said. “I told McIntyre that I'm going to let him make that case (to the public) but I'm not sure he made the case to me?
Uh, what case exactly?
“That money will be well invested, that the money invested will raise test scores,” Burchett said.
So, essentially, the mayor is saying that the superintendent will have until early May to convince him to add the extra scratch in the budget. Which isn't happening. Then, it's out of Buchett's hands. The mayor added that he doesn't expect the public nor the commission to support the plan.
He also said he was concerned that even if the commission agreed to increase taxes by 35 cents that other officeholders “would want a piece of the pie” and the 35 cents would turn into “50 plus cents.”
I asked Burchett a number of times and in a number of different ways whether any portion of McIntyre's request would be funded – even without a tax increase – and his answers were always foggy. I'm going to ask the Magic Eight Ball next time.
Later, he called and said “there will be something extra in there, I'm sure.”
But, again, he wouldn't say how much.