Recently I inquired about the process to form a charter review committee to discuss potential revisions to the city budgeting process and other potential charter amendments. City Council attorney Rob Frost has followed up with that information and it involves forming an ad hoc city council committee, identifying members for that committee, and identifying times for the committee to meet and decide on charter amendments to send before city council for 2 readings before being placed on the November ballot. To meet the deadline for getting items on the ballot, we would need to review them and approve them by the end of July. I developed a timeline based on the process followed the last time the city charter was amended. Since the approved Ordinance must be published at least ninety (90) days prior to the November general election, the proposed Ordinance must be approved on first reading by City Council no later than July 12, 2022, and on second reading no later than July 26, 2022 (assuming City Council meets at its regularly scheduled times).
Therefore, there is no time to form a charter review committee this year. Moving forward, we may want to consider establishing a periodic charter review process as is conducted by the county. Although the city charter has been amended within the last 10 years, I do not believe the administration and council have engaged the community in a review process. I think that is important to do and commit myself to being a part of that process.
In the interim, I am proposing we address 2 issues pertaining to the charter this year (or more if others have proposals). In lieu of a workshop or review committee, I’m hoping a discussion on our web forum may provide a space to introduce proposals and answer questions before we review it at council. So please feel free to review my proposal and post questions in the forum. These proposed ordinances/charter amendments will go on our June 28th agenda once Mr. Frost can confirm they are in proper legal form.
Issue 1: City council needs more time to consider the budget between the public hearings and the final date to approve the budget
Currently the charter requires city council to approve the budget on first reading, then send it to public hearings, and approve the budget on second reading by June 15th. I believe if we remove a few of those requirements, which are not state mandated, then the administration would have more flexibility to create a budget calendar that gives city council more time to review and potentially amend the budget. I am proposing we address this issue through 3 charter amendments that would: 1) remove the requirement that city council pass the budget on first reading, 2) change the final date to pass the budget to June 30, and also 3) change the final date to pass the tax levy ordinance to June 30. I’ve included a sample budget calendar below that would give city council multiple opportunities to review the budget and vote on amendments before voting on the final budget ordinance.
Key provisions from state law:
- It is important that we adopt a budget by June 30th so city employees can be paid on July 1st! TCA § 9-1-116 requires all governments in Tennessee to appropriate monies that are available before they can be spent on any program or service. https://comptroller.tn.gov/content/dam/ ... lities.pdf
- State law does not require city council to adopt a budget by June 15th. The budget must be submitted to the state by August 31st. See more in the letter at the following link. https://comptroller.tn.gov/content/dam/ ... etMemo.pdf
SHALL ARTICLE IX, SECTION 901(E) OF THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE, ENTITLED, “PUBLIC HEARINGS” BE AMENDED SO AS TO REMOVE THE REQUIREMENT THAT CITY COUNCIL PASS THE BUDGET ORDINANCE ON FIRST READING BEFORE HOLDING PUBLIC HEARINGS, ALL AS MORE FULLY SET FORTH IN ORDINANCE No. __ OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE AS DULY PUBLISHED?
SHALL ARTICLE IX, SECTION 901(F) OF THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE, ENTITLED, “ACTION BY COUNCIL” BE AMENDED SO AS TO CHANGE THE FINAL DAY THAT CITY COUNCIL CAN ADOPT THE BUDGET ORDINANCE FROM NO LATER THAN THE FIFTEENTH DAY PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEXT ENSUING FISCAL YEAR TO THE DAY BEFORE THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEXT ENSURING FISCAL YEAR, ALL AS MORE FULLY SET FORTH IN ORDINANCE No. __ OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE AS DULY PUBLISHED?
SHALL ARTICLE IX, SECTION 901(G) OF THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE, ENTITLED, “TAX LEVY” BE AMENDED SO AS TO CHANGE THE FINAL DAY THAT CITY COUNCIL CAN ADOPT THE BUDGET ORDINANCE FROM NO LATER THAN THE FIFTEENTH DAY PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEXT ENSUING FISCAL YEAR TO THE DAY BEFORE THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEXT ENSURING FISCAL YEAR, ALL AS MORE FULLY SET FORTH IN ORDINANCE No. __ OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE AS DULY PUBLISHED?
See the referenced section of the charter at this link: https://library.municode.com/tn/knoxvil ... OPU_901FI
Sample Budget Calendar following the Mayor’s State of the City address and release of the budget:
- Late March/Early April: Mayor's State of the City Address and Proposed Annual Operating Budget released.
- Last 2 weeks in April: Legislative Budget hearings held on mayor’s proposed budget.
- Last week of April/First week in May: Budget Ordinance introduced to city council for first reading. On first reading, the council may pass a motion to refer the proposed ordinance to a committee of the whole.
- May: Committee of the whole shall proceed on the referred subject by debating it, considering amendments, and/or adopting recommendations.
- Last regularly scheduled Council meeting in May: Council receives committee recommendations and takes first vote on the proposed budget and tax ordinance. Council First Reading of proposed Capital Improvement Program.
- First regularly scheduled Council meeting in June: Council Second Reading of Proposed Budget & Tax Ordinances. Council Second Reading of proposed Capital Improvement Program
- June 30: Last Possible Day to Approve Budget/Tax Ordinances.
The second issue that I would like to address pertains to tie breakers in the city council primary election. After experiencing the city council’s tie breaker process in 2017, a simple solution was presented to me that would have prevented the need for city council to choose the candidate to move forward to the general election ballot. The charter amendment I am proposing allows the candidates with the two highest number of votes to move forward to the ballot (rather than the two candidates with the highest number of votes). This small change in language would prevent the city council from having to break a tie in the primary election. If a tie were to occur during the general election, the city council has the option to call for a recount or hold a special election to determine a winner. In the primary, the city council could call for a recount but there is no time to hold a runoff election that service members would be able to participate in. Therefore, currently, the council must take a vote or flip a coin to determine who moves on to the general election in the case of a tie in the primary. Read more about my experience in 2017 here: http://ameliaparkerforcitycouncil.com/i ... mendments/
Amendment 4 and 5:
The fourth and fifth amendments change the language in Article VII. Section 707(B) and (C) of the charter for both “at large” and “district” members of council to allow the candidates receiving the two highest number of votes to move on to the general election rather than the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes.
Key state provisions:
- TCA § 2-17-117 (Recounts) states that any court, primary board, legislative body, or tribunal having jurisdiction of an election contest pursuant to this chapter may order a recount of the ballots ...in the case of a tie vote.https://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/ ... -2-17-117/
- TCA § 2-8-111 (Tie votes) states that if there is a tie vote between the two (2) or more persons having the highest number of votes for an office, the state election commission shall cast the deciding vote except that ... the municipal legislative body shall cast the deciding vote for municipal offices, or, in the alternative, the legislative body may by resolution call for a run-off election between the tied candidates.https://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/ ... -8/2-8-111
SHALL ARTICLE VII, SECTION 707(C) OF THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE, ENTITLED, “MEMBERS OF COUNCIL-AT LARGE” BE AMENDED SO AS TO CHANGE THE CANDIDATES PLACED ON THE REGULAR ELECTION BALLOT FROM THE TWO (2) CANDIDATES RECEIVING THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES FOR EACH DESIGNATED AT LARGE SEAT TO THE CANDIDATES RECEIVING THE TWO (2) HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES FOR EACH DESIGNATED AT LARGE SEAT, ALL AS MORE FULLY SET FORTH IN ORDINANCE No. __ OF THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE AS DULY PUBLISHED?
See the referenced section of the charter at this link: https://library.municode.com/tn/knoxvil ... _707MAHOEL
Thank you for reviewing and considering my proposals. Please feel free to post questions or comments below and I will be sure to respond.