Knox County Budget Proposal is Good, Not Great
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchetts proposed overall budget of $652.9 million includes no tax increases but does include significant staff cuts and puts a stop to costly political gimmicks such as the Commissioners discretionary funds. AFP-Tennessee applauds Mayor Burchett for trimming the bureaucracy and finding efficiencies to balance the budget. Knox County families and small-businesses could not afford a higher tax burden and we are pleased Knox County government understands that.
However, while Mayor Burchett has proposed a good budget; it is not great for taxpayers. Knox County, like counties across the country, is held hostage to public employee unions that demand unsustainable benefits and compensation packages for government employees.
Take for example the fixed increases – legal jargon for spending increase to satisfy union agreements in the 2011 budget for county employees health care benefits. Knox County pays 100% of the health insurance premiums for its employees, while in the private sector the average Tennessean is paying 22% of their premiums. Not only are these outrageous benefits irresponsible, the county is paying $300,000 more this upcoming year to cover premium increases due to increased health care costs.
Other increases for government employees are state-mandated salary increases (over $3 million) and union contract demands for step increases ($3.8 million) that in total will cost Knox County taxpayers nearly $7 million in new spending. AFP-TN wants the state of Tennessee and Knox County to use performance in determining whether government employees receive a raise. Merit pay would be preferable to the automatic raises county employees are receiving. Private sector employees are not receiving automatic raises; and their tax dollars should not be used for government-sector perks.
Overall, we believe Mayor Burchett has done about as good a job as possible considering the state mandates and union agreements that hamstring his ability to present a truly exceptional budget for the taxpayers of Knox County. However, we will continue to demand that county and state leaders stand up to the irresponsible Big Labor bosses and demand sensible compensation (100% health insurance premiums is unheard of) and fair salary increases (based on performance).