(WVLT) - Knox County Commissioners tackled the difficult task of balancing and approving the county's general budget.
Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel was at the meeting.
The budget passed Thursday night after one commissioner took a small action that made a big difference.
"I'm worried about spending $102 million dollars without a revenue stream," says Commissioner Lee Trammel.
Trammel provided the only vote against the budget the first time the commission voted on it.
After a reconsideration, the budget passed unanimously, although Trammel says he is still skeptical.
"The bond issue is what I was confused on. I don't like blowing $30 million on the bond issues. The operating budget is fine but I don't like blowing the money to pay for it. I think we need to tighten our belts more," says Trammel.
Efficiency seemed to be the word of the day.
"I think that some of the things that have come up show that we're not as efficient as we can be," says Commissioner Mike Hammond of the 5th district.
"Some of those things" are the accusations of fraudulent behavior.
But County Mayor Mike Ragsdale addressed those immediately.
"I think, again, when you're dealing with billions of dollars, you're going to have some mistakes along the way and those were corrected as soon as they were brought to our attention," says Ragsdale.
In a memo to commissioners, Ragsdale explained several "questionable expenses" and officially changed the current policy, saying those on his staff will now claim per diem expenses for meals when they travel.
"They should be held to the same standard that commissioners are. We get a per diem when we travel and so forth and i think that's a step in the right direction," says Hammond.
The passed budget also reduces salaries, by $12,000, for Ragsdale's top officials, money that previously went toward travel allowances or salary supplements.
It's a decision Ragsdale says his staff made on it's own.
"What it came down to at the end of the day is funding that will move Knox County forward and that's what's important," says Ragsdale.
Tacked onto the budget, is a request for a monthly or quarterly report on travel, meals and purchasing card expenses.
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