City tax hike looming?

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

More than one member of Knoxville City Council has told this writer they would not be surprised if Mayor Rogero recommended a property tax increase in her budget this year. My guess is that the mayor has not decided and would surely try to avoid a tax increase the year before she runs for her second and final term in office.

The one-time bonus of $8 million to the city from the state’s Hall income tax awhile back makes a tax hike harder to explain this year.

Coupled with the pension reform city charter amendments which the mayor successfully championed in 2012 to solve the financial pressures on the pension plan, a property tax hike would be an even tougher sale for the mayor and the four council members running for their second and final terms in 2015.

The last city property tax increase was 10 years ago. My prediction is one should expect a city property tax increase recommendation in the first year of Rogero’s second term in 2016 rather than now.

As long as Tim Burchett is county mayor, there will not be a county property tax increase. It is that simple. Whether city council would approve a property tax hike and in what amount is a big question.

■  John H. Daniel clothing company is leaving the Old City, having sold the Jackson Avenue property it has called home for a century. Richard Bryan told this writer he will relocate to Central Avenue this summer.

Customers have included the late Gov. Ned McWherter, Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush, former Gov. Don Sundquist, famed attorney Johnny Cochran and Sen. Howard Baker along with countless other prominent citizens buying tailored clothing at reasonable prices.

■  Mayor Rogero will meet with the KAT board at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the small assembly room of the City County Building to discuss the $40,000 Gobis report. Public may attend.

Rogero and her staff met with top KAT staff in January at their offices. Her communications office led by Jesse Mayshark declined to identify who on the Rogero staff accompanied the mayor. For a mayor who pledged transparency, this is a contradiction. Why would it be a secret as to who on her staff accompanied her to a meeting dealing with public transportation?

What’s the big deal? For the record, I can report the staff accompanying her were the two deputy mayors, Dr. Bill Lyons and Christi Branscom.

However, it is smart for the mayor to confer with the KAT board as she did not when she canceled the Veolia contract. It looks like the mayor wants to chart a new course in dealing with the KAT.

The Gobis report, in the view of several KAT board members, is seriously flawed and should not be implemented. It will be interesting to see if Council will hold a workshop since the report recommends several steps which require Council approval.

■  UT Band Director Gary Sousa is now teaching at the School of Music, but the inquiry into his work as band director continues. The inquiry has already lasted a month longer than predicted when it started in October. Sousa continues to draw the band director’s salary.

■  TVA says it must cut $500 million in expenses. This means layoffs for both full- and part-time employees. Strange there is no mention of the $5.9 million, nine-month salary to CEO Bill Johnson.

Hard to justify firing people while maintaining such an excessive salary for the CEO and the legal counsel, Ralph Rodgers, who made $1.9 million last year. Not many attorneys in the Tennessee Valley come close to half that amount.

If Rodgers will not do the job for less, then surely TVA could find someone else who would work for $400,000 a year and do an outstanding job.

Wasteful spending at TVA continues at the top level because the board fails to act.

President Obama has three TVA nominations to make in 2014.

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