By Mike Steely
An agenda of some 54 items was passed on to their regular meeting tomorrow night when the Knox County Commission met in work session last week, including a resolution to extend a 20-year lease of a former school for use as a Head Start program.
Commissioner Mike Brown, who represents the area of the former Anderson Elementary School at 4808 Prospect Road in South Knox County, had a few questions about the lease with the Community Action Committee. The current 20-year lease has expired and the commission is expected to renew the agreement.
Brown removed the resolution from various school system requests, which are normally passed without discussion, to ask about the condition of the building, saying that part of the old school structure is “unusable.” Apparently the CAC will continue to use that part of the old school it currently uses; the new lease agreement details require upkeep and maintenance there. The next lease agreement would stretch until 2035.
The commissioners also approved and passed on to the meeting tonight a resolution to increase the number of days of military leave allowed to county employees from 20 to 30 days.
Also discussed was the reorganization of the commission following the August 4 election. The newly elected or re-elected commissioners will be sworn in on September 1. Current members heard Law Director Bud Armstrong say that the reorganization, or swearing in the new commission officers, must occur in the first meeting following the September 1st seating.
Apparently that date will be set in the current commission’s August 8th work session, four days after the election.
Pilot Flying J was chosen to continue to be the supplier of the Fuel Cards for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and a contract with TASER International, Inc. may be extended to include additional video and capture systems for the Sheriff’s Department.
Also on the list of agenda items to be forwarded to Monday’s regular meeting is a resolution authorizing the law director to negotiate benefits similar to worker’s compensation for a disabled county school employee.
Deputy Knoxville Mayor Bill Lyons spoke to the Finance Committee prior to the work session and explained the city’s TIF and PILOT programs. The tax relief programs, aimed at encouraging commercial development, create revenue for the city and county but delay payment of the full property tax.
Lyons said the city uses the “But For” question when considering applications and explained the proposals are considered possible only if a project could not be financed “but for” the programs. He said the city has considered and turned down many requests and said the city is “vigilant” in looking at ideas from developers.
Commissioner Ed Brantley asked if the city also considers state incentives to developers and Lyons said the city works in conjunction with the state. Commissioner Bob Thomas said he is “encouraged” that the city has hired a third-party to consult on development requests that involve tax incentives.
Both incentive programs must be approved by the city and county because of the financial aspect, or delayed taxes, the incentives create.
Interim School Superintendent Buzz Thomas also spoke during the commission’s financial session saying that he is working in partnership with Finance Director Chris Caldwell and said the school system received more money from the state’s BEP allotment than expected.
Caldwell told the commissioners the county anticipates about $2.2 million in surplus revenue and both Caldwell and Thomas mentioned higher insurance expenses for employees.
The outside auditor, Larry Elmore of Pugh Associates, congratulated the county finance department for receiving a “certificate of excellence” for the 20th straight year and mentioned a letter he wrote to the commissioners about communications between the firm and the county government.
“You are responsible to tell us about risks that are higher in one area or another,” he said, adding that as the outside auditor his firm is responsible to inform the commission about any financial risk suspected.
The finance committee meeting, which preceded the work session, saw some questions about the slow collection of funds due from parents involving school lunch payments. The system has made few efforts to collect the back-payments and many schools get free lunches. There’s apparently some confusion among parents as to which school and which students receive free lunches.
Interim School Superintendent Buzz Thomas addresses the Knox County Commission’s work session last week saying he is working closely with the county’s Finance Director. (Photo by Mike Steely)