Mayor Indya Kincannon’s proposed budget reflects feedback from the Mayor’s Climate Council on the importance of transportation electrification.
Her budget for next year funds KAT’s continuing transition to all-electric buses, doubles the number of City-owned public charging stations for electric vehicles, and installs charging banks at City facilities to allow more electric cars to be integrated into the City fleet.
Perhaps less noticeable are behind-the-scenes initiatives that make Knoxville more resilient to climate change and protect the city’s natural resources. For example, Mayor Kincannon is committing more than $4 million to stormwater infrastructure, including $550,000 in new capital to improve drainage and proactively address water quality.
“There were skeptics who scoffed when we said we would cut greenhouse emissions by 20 percent by 2020,” Mayor Kincannon said. “But we did it. And now, we’re working toward out next goals – a 50 percent reduction by 2030 for City operations, and an 80 percent communitywide reduction by 2050.
“We can and will lead by example in reducing carbon emissions. My proposed budget takes the next important steps toward reaching those goals. We’re building the transformational infrastructure now that will enable us to be cleaner and greener for generations to come.”
Leveraging insight from the Mayor’s Climate Council, this budget includes $15.3 million in direct City support for Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), including $1.2 million for matching grants as KAT continues to convert its fleet to all-electric buses.
KAT’s first 12 electric buses will soon be on their way. The first one is already off the assembly line, and all 12 will arrive in Knoxville by fall 2021.
Another $150,000 in Mayor Kincannon’s budget would fund additional public electric vehicle charging stations and install charging banks at the City County Building and at the Public Works Service Center.
There are now 21 public charging ports; in another year, that number will more than double to 45, with most of the new ports going into downtown parking garages and City parks.
“It’s easy to visualize plugging in at your house,” said Sustainability Director Brian Blackmon. “I’ve heard from the Mayor’s Climate Council and our residents that lack of charging at off-street parking can make buying an EV seem impractical for residents downtown and in our denser neighborhoods. Access to charging options shouldn’t be a determining factor in whether someone buys an electric vehicle.
“Adding charging amenities in parks and downtown garages has been an effective way for us to deploy near our residents’ homes, allow people to top off their car while stretching their legs, and provide a service for out-of-town visitors planning a trip to catch a game or show.
“Our goal is to someday make charging stations as ubiquitous as gas stations are now.”
Blackmon said there are two EVs in the City fleet now, with another six on order. Once the 30 charging stations are installed inside the City County Building garage and another six at the Public Works Service Center, the City’s EV fleet of non-emergency passenger vehicles will increase to about 30 within two years.
Meanwhile, more than $4 million is committed in Mayor Kincannon’s 2021-22 budget to stormwater infrastructure, and $721,000 is allocated to protect and expand Knoxville’s urban forest – both critical investments to promote resilience and a healthy environment.
Chris Howley, the City’s Engineering Planning Chief who oversees stormwater operations, highlighted the department’s “proactive approach” – identifying and replacing dilapidated pipes before (not after) they fail.
With climate change comes more intense storms and more frequent heavy rain, which strain antiquated infrastructure, he said.
“It costs five or six times as much money to replace a failed pipe in an emergency than it does to replace it proactively,” he said.
Mayor Kincannon’s budget also supports the Knoxville Convention Center's enrollment into the KUB/TVA Green Switch Match program, which will provide 100 percent renewable electricity to the facility. Increased support for existing programs that support renewables investment was prioritized by the Mayor’s Climate Council.
Knoxville is now the top city in the Southeast for investing in solar power, thanks to KUB’s investment in 502 MW of solar through TVA’s Green Invest program.
And although no funding is required in the upcoming fiscal year, the City is partnering with KUB to support a community solar project at the City’s Public Works Service Center, 3131 Morris Ave., just north of Interstate 40.
“This happens to be a highly visible location,” Mayor Kincannon said. “At some point in the near future, passing motorists on I-40 will glance at the large solar array and understand that Knoxville is committed to sustainability.”
Working to ensure Knoxville’s clean and resilient future is one of the five key priorities that shape and drive Mayor Kincannon’s proposed 2021-22 budget. (Other priorities are public safety; healthy and connected neighborhoods; thriving businesses and good jobs; and good governance.)
Mayor Kincannon’s proposed budget will be presented for first reading at City Council on Tuesday, May 4. Legislative budget hearings are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, May 13-14, with a public hearing at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 14. A second Council vote on the proposed budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18.