Knox County Council members on Tuesday got a bit carried away in dishing out compliments and praise associated with the crafting of their $25 million 2020 spending plan.
Councilman David Culp, for instance, touted a new software used by those in the auditor's office to keep all the numbers straight — a far superior method than the paper-and-pencil process used just last year.
The council was able to see the changes made to various budget line items in “real time,” he said, and it made all the difference.
“It made everything so much easier,” he said during the council's regular monthly meeting held at City Hall, 201 Vigo St. “It was one of the best years working on the budget I've ever experienced.”
Council president Bob Lechner, too, called it an almost “seamless” process. This budget season, he said, ran as a “well-oiled operation.”
“Devoting that time to not fussing with numbers and trying to get accurate numbers (allowed us to focus on) discussion and deliberation of priorities and where we can spend the limited funds we have,” he said.
Other council members, too, took turns praising each other and the auditor's office for a job well done this year.
“But we really do need to adopt it, guys,” Lechner said with a chuckle, to which councilman Tim Crowley moved to approve the budget.
The council last month met for more than 20 hours over the course of two days meeting with department heads and the county commissioners and hashing out the 2020 spending plan.
Lechner said since that two-day budget hearing, there were just a few “question marks left open” that needed their attention. There was, for example, an error corrected, one where double the amount needed for health insurance costs was budgeted, so they reduced it, from the incorrect $400,000 down to $200,000.
The other changes, he said, were similar “simple math errors” that needed correcting before the budget could be approved.
County auditor Mike Morris said his staff, too, had gone through it with a “fine-tooth comb” and found nothing else that needed the council's attention.
“I'm pretty comfortable with it,” he said.
The 2020 budget includes a 3% raise for all county employees, an aspect about which the council was extraordinarily proud.
The approved spending plan will now go to the state Department of Local Government Finance for approval.
Per a new state law, county authorities will know by the end of the year whether the budget has received the DLGF's blessing as is or if cuts will be needed.
In the past, it could be February or even into March before local governments knew where they stood with their annual spending plans.