Mayor Kincannon Details New Budget, Outlines Priorities

Mayor Kincannon's State of the City and Budget Annoucement Address, World's Fair Amphitheater, Knoxville, April 2024 (Photo by Heather Ryerson)
Mayor Kincannon’s State of the City and Budget Announcement Address, World’s Fair Amphitheater, Knoxville, April 2024 (Photo by Heather Ryerson)

On Friday, at the Amphitheater on the World’s Fair Park, Mayor Kincannon presented her proposed $461.6 million budget for the next year and with it set out a list of priorities. She framed it as a continuation of efforts “Enhancing public safety, ‘being brilliant at the basics,’ relieving the acute shortage of housing (especially affordable housing), creating jobs and equitable economic opportunities, and investing in public infrastructure.”

In the upbeat address, she said the city is “on a roll,” as she presented the budget that maintains the current tax rate of $2.1556 per $100 of assessed value, which is the “lowest tax rate since 1974.”

Pointing out that “Good ideas can take years to realize,” she noted examples such as the Urban Wilderness and the recently completed Public Safety Complex in North Knoxville. While some portions of that project are complete, others continue, such as that for the Empath Center, set to open this summer. It will “provide acute medical and behavioral health services on the Public Safety Complex campus.”

The site of the mayor’s speech was purposeful. Attendees saw first hand the scaffolding and early preparations for construction of a Welcome Center at the base of the Sunsphere. Any recent trip to the Amphitheater also reveals the poor condition of the canopy and the mayor used the location as an opportunity to sway that this budget includes “funding to design a new canopy over the iconic 1982 World’s Fair Tennessee Amphitheater.” It will be the first new covering for the facility in 42 years.

Mayor Kincannon’s State of the City and Budget Announcement Address, World’s Fair Amphitheater, Knoxville, April 2024 (Photo by Heather Ryerson)
Mayor Kincannon’s State of the City and Budget Announcement Address, World’s Fair Amphitheater, Knoxville, April 2024 (Photo by Heather Ryerson)

The budget addresses a number of key areas of concern and opportunity going forward, topics with which any attuned resident is familiar:

Affordable housing

The mayor and city council previously committed to funding $5 million per year for ten years, and this year’s commitment is larger at $8 million for the Knoxville Affordable Housing Fund. Included is “$4.2 million for the Transforming Western redevelopment project, $2.5 million for the Affordable Rental Development Fund, and $1.1 million for permanent supportive housing.

This follows $40 million designated up to this year for affordable housing during the Kincannon administration. Those funds leveraged $600 million in private investment. Additionally, “$950,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds is being transferred to the City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Department to support property acquisition for more affordable housing.”

Private housing philanthropy

The private sector has also been harnessed via a partnership with the United Way and community donors. “More than $2 million in private dollars will support the City’s affordable housing programs throughout our community,” Mayor Kincannon announced. This will enable the city to extend affordable housing help to an additional 200 families and individuals, with support provided by Phil Lawson and the Lawson Family Foundation, the Haslam Family, Clayton Homes, and Randy Boyd.


About $7 million is designated for “improvements to parks and recreational facilities, including significant investments at Lakeshore Park, Williams Creek Golf Course and World’s Fair Park.” Also included is funding to “continue the development of a new Lonsdale park.”

Safe roads

Safe roads have been a priority for the administration as expressed in her Vision Zero program, “which aims to eliminate fatalities of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists on City streets by 2040.” To that end, this budget includes about $11.7 million for “road safety investments – repairs and upgrades to roads, bridges, guardrails, signs and traffic signals.” Another $1.5 million would go specifically to Vision Zero initiatives and another half-million would go toward “speed bumps and other traffic-calming devices through the popular Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program.”

New Burlington fire station

$3 million to begin construction this year and $4 million to follow next year. The 87-year-old current station will be replaced a block away with a new station promised to be “energy efficient, more spacious, and able to accommodate modern firefighting and rescue apparatus.”

Recruiting and retaining talented employees

Law enforcement receives $3.9 million for raises to make their pay more competitive, increasing starting pay for new officers to $56,000 per year. Incentive pay is increased for Fire Department Advanced EMTs and paramedics and funding is included for a new class of KFD recruits. All general government employees will receive a 2.5% raise.

Community support

Included here are designated funds ($2.7 million) for contracts for local government partners like the Metro Drug Coalition, Young-Williams Animal Center and others. Zoo Knoxville gets about $2.4 million and arts and culture non-profits share $648,500 in grants. Other agencies such as the McNabb Center are in line for grants totaling more than $1.5 million. A new source of funding “generated from various class-action lawsuit settlements with pharmaceutical companies,” will distribute $310,000 in opioid remediation to a range of groups.

Job creation

Almost $3 million supports the City’s key economic development partners, including the Knoxville Chamber, Visit Knoxville, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and Centro Hispano.

The city’s main operating fund makes up the bulk of the budget at $338 million. The budget goes before City Council April 30 and, after a legislative and a public hearing on May 16, the budget will get a final look and vote by City Council on May 28. You can read the mayor’s entire speech here, see the entire 255 page budget proposal here, or watch the various videos surrounding the event included here, up to the full forty minute address if you’d like to watch it.