Greenway acceleration considered; FY ’24 budget passes 1st read

Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved, on first reading, its Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget during its meeting Thursday, May 25, but not without some concerns about Turkey Creek Greenway expansion and funding for Shop Farragut-Farragut Business Alliance.

The budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023, and ends June 30, 2024, shows revenues estimated at $15.5 million and expenditures at $9.425 million.

“This year-end estimate accounts for a 9.2 percent increase in sales tax revenue from the FY 2023 budget, as well as additional revenue increases in the state sales tax, wholesale liquor taxes, building permits and interest earnings,” Town administrator David Smoak said. “The proposed FY 2024 General Fund revenues are $15,502,240, which is a slight increase from estimated FY 2023.

“Sales tax revenue is estimated to increase 6.25 percent from FY 2023, estimated at $9,350,000,” he added. “This revenue source accounts for 60.3 percent of the Town’s total General Fund revenue.”

Greenway funding move-up asked

Alderman Drew Burnette asked the Board to consider moving up the funding for the greenway project one year, from fiscal years 2025, 2026 and 2027 to 2024, 2025 and 2026.

“It’s the most important missing link in our entire Town,” he said. “The gap that it leaves interrupts the connectivity so much that it forces you to go all the way to Kingston Pike and around and, basically, blocks you off from one side of the Town to the other.”

“From a fiscal standpoint, we would be OK to move it up one year,” Smoak said. “The biggest challenge we have is we have a number of projects that are going to be starting up next year. … It would just be a matter of when we can get to it.”

While Vice Mayor Louise Povlin agreed the greenway connection is important, she added, “we’re still doing projects from this fiscal year.”

“We have projects from six years ago we’re still trying to finish up,” Smoak said.

“Does the staff have time to do this extra project?” Alderman Scott Meyer asked. “If you don’t, I’m not for the timing. I think the budget needs to reflect the actual projects that are in place.

“Right now, I’m comfortable with the timing the way it is,” he added.

“I would need to sit down with our staff and look through all the projects,” Smoak answered.

Mayor Ron Williams reminded Board members they had discussed a hybrid of two options they received.

“I don’t know how quick we could speed up (right-of-way) acquisition,” he said. “That’s the quicksand we normally run into.”

Regarding FBA, Povlin said she wants to delineate funding for FBA.

In the economic development professional services budget, the Town allotted $35,000 for Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce and $55,000 for FBA.

“At the very least (concerning) the Farragut Business Alliance, have it delineated out (as follows): Shop Farragut $35,000 and community events $20,000,” she said.

“The FBA is kind of evolving, and they are proposing a change to their bylaws that allows for participation from Knox County businesses,” Povlin added. “I believe, ultimately, that undermines the reason FBA was founded.

“I believe it also undermines the Shop Farragut program; Shop Farragut program was instituted to help support businesses in the Town of Farragut.”

Budget summary: Smoak

“This 2024 budget really sets our goals and priorities for the fiscal year,” Smoak said.

One of the goals is setting the Town’s vision: “where we want to go in the future,” he said. “Farragut is setting the standard for quality of life with the beautiful, close-knit, connected, engaged community, where individuals, families and businesses thrive.”

Smoak said the budget includes adding a staff accountant for the Finance Department “to assist in coordinating the Town’s financial records and perform budget analysis,” costing $98,337. It also notes a proposed organizational change in Public Works Department, allowing “highly skilled and experienced maintenance technicians to move one grade higher,” costing $17,000.

The Capital Investment Program budget has $17,267,500 in projects planned to get under way in FY 2024.