May 13 2011
10:18 pm

First, he cut jobs and forced the school system to cut jobs - 34 in his Department and 17 from "KC Schools Central Office." Then, check out what he cut vs. what he piled millions on.

Most all social programs that provide essential services took big hits or were cut altogether. The Beck Cultural Exchange Center funding received $150,000 for last year, budget cut 92% to new amount proposed: $12,000.

Departments dissolved, or cut out permanently:

Family Investment Corp. last year $169,620, this year: 0
Senior Summit last year $15,000, this year: 0
Office of Neighborhoods last year $340,869.00, this year: 0
Dept of Community Development: 0
Child and Family last year $35,000, this year: 0
Seniors At Home last year $50,000, this year: 0

Meanwhile, the following items received HUGE amounts:

The PBA which was criticized at every mayoral debate (which Burchett did not attend) last year received $6,316,256 and next year it will receive $6,623,039.00

Something called "Three Ridges Golf Course Fund": $1,162,697

Something titled "Legislative Delegation": $63,134

Item titled "Sports Open": $168,240 will receive the same amount next year.

This is the candidate who was lauded and praised for his 'government experience'. In his first 6 months in office, we learned that he did not attend board meetings, committees meetings, sent his 'staff members' to report back about each situation. From where I live here in East Knoxville, I feel this area of Knox County has been betrayed by those who promoting voting for this candidate who chose to not support vital community services for kids, for Seniors, for the homeless, or for The Beck Center, a storehouse of history, heritage and culture for our community.

Check out this budget and make sure you attend the hearings scheduled to discuss this mess. If you stay home and do not speak out, this budget will slide through AS IS.

fischbobber's picture

A Problem

The problem with tearing down what many of us have worked on quietly through the years is that it weakens your argument. If you have a specific problem with the Three Ridges Golf Fund or Sports Open then by all means bring it to the table. Otherwise, I would ask that you consider the following.

Three Ridges is a huge supporter of junior golf in this community. Most junior sports are vastly underfunded. The work in this arena has been largely under the radar due to a variety of factors. You won't be hurting the children at Fox Den, Cherokee, Holston Hills or Beaver Brook by continuing down this road of criticism. You will be hurting middle class and poor kids. Kids that, because of their own work, have an opportunity to give something back by taking advantage of the chance to better themselves.

Lambasting the Mayor for something he's doing correctly may not be the best way to get the broad based support of progressives. Just saying.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Departments dissolved, or cut out permanently:

Family Investment Corp. last year $169,620, this year: 0
Senior Summit last year $15,000, this year: 0
Office of Neighborhoods last year $340,869.00, this year: 0
Dept of Community Development: 0
Child and Family last year $35,000, this year: 0
Seniors At Home last year $50,000, this year: 0

I thought that the Office of Neighborhoods was folded into the Department of Community Development? How then can CD not receive a budget?

(Disclaimer: Mary's link isn't working for me and I haven't yet gone to the Knox County site to pull up the budget from there...)

jcgrim's picture

Punishing, cruel budget cuts

These budget cuts are instituted without regard to equity and specific community needs. Every program on the chopping block have dedicated, unpaid or low paid workers trying to serve the least among us. They've spent years of thankless hours working to build programs.

The mayor's lack of engagement with all citizens and his clearly thoughtless, arbitrary elimination of services to large numbers of poor people, shows where his priorities are: his wealthy constituency and his major campaign donors.

Rachel's picture

Ok, like most govt budgets,

Ok, like most govt budgets, there are things in this one I like and things I dislike.

However, I feel the need to correct one impression left by a prior poster. She correctly pointed out that the Office of Neighborhoods and the Community Development Department are zeroed out.

What she missed was that there is a new Dept of Neighborhood and Community Development, with a proposed budget of $335,814.

Lonniewood's picture

A Matter of Priorities

The budget proposal is an example of the Republican philosophy which is void of the Christian compassion, kindness, or caring for other human beings that the Republicans so pay lip service to in their campaigns. The mayor is a lifelong Republican who had a dismal record in the state legislature. We get what they paid for, policies that benefit the mayor and his cronies. The current state and local government nightmare is one that we will not awake from for years. The Republican Party's platform at the national, state, and local levels, reflect the fact that they have a mean spirit and are morally corrupt.

Mary the prez's picture

Thanks, Lonnie, he did include Jesus...but...!

According to the Metro Pulse, he has included something initialed "HRC" which turns out to be the "HOPE Resource Center' (which Burchett calls OUR CLINIC) which is a "Christian" clinic established to save souls, convinces females not to have abortions by apparently teaching them the risks of physical harm of the procedure and NO accurate information, NO factual information about birth control, protection from unwanted sex, or unwanted babies. This is a total outrage that he would not only spend our tax dollars ($8000) on this 'religious entity' and support this deceitful organization AND justify it in the name of Jesus.

I attended the County Commission meeting yesterday. Sam McKensie was brilliant, passionate and totally accurate as he described what a cultural treasure the Beck Center is to our AREA. Of course Burchett didn't bother to come and sent Dean Rice who provided some mumbo jumbo about a MOU, memorandum of understanding about the past history of the relationship between this county and the Beck Center...totally irrelevant and lacking in justification for this insult to our community.
Stay tuned...the more rocks that are turned over, the more we find out just who "advised" this mayor on what and why he has done this deed, punishing people who really need these services at the expense of funding million dollar 'departments' who do not even have to justify one penny.

Sandra Clark's picture


Hey, I'm not prepared to defend or lambaste the Burchett Budget, but I can safely say it is not immoral. Immorality is funding popular projects via debt. Burchett's budget is straightforward. Cut spending or raise taxes. And there's not three votes on County Commission for a tax increase.

Give the guy a break. If you want to restore funding for your favorite project, what will you cut or tax to do it? -- s.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I would cut commissioners.

Lonniewood's picture

Commish Pay

It would be a great idea to cut the pay of commissioners and school board. I think they are receiving approximately $23,000 a year plus some benefits. That is crazy! The problem, correct me if I am wrong, is that the state dictates commissioners pay according to the population of the county. So, as much as I would like to cut the pay of the commissioners, I do not think it is possible to do it at the county level.

rikki's picture

the role of government is to

the role of government is to address inequality AND inequity

Where in the Charter do you find this?

fischbobber's picture


Obviously if you are old, you need to get some friggin' golf clubs.

And when I'm old is probably when I'll be able to afford to play again.

Gutting the recreation budget is not the answer to this county's problems. We need a tax increase in this county if we want families here. We are rapidly turning into a service poor, retirement community for people who want third world expenditures with western luxuries. They don't care about education, their kids are grown, yet they expect a western level of service.

And now, if I may, a word or two about public golf in general and junior golf in specific. Tim could have killed junior golf with this budget, but it doesn't appear that has happened. This doesn't mean things are going great guns. The school board did not manage to pull it's collective head out of it's collective ass and come up with a realistic middle school sports policy. The county's par three courses apparently aren't line-itemed in the budget to the point where anyone is making a stink. Golf is the last bastion of sportsmanship in youth sports. Adults are not allowed to interfere once the kids get to middle school. And we adults are doing all we can to kill the game. I will get my son through high school golf with or without public support, but who will he play against? Who is in charge of the level playing field? How many more dads do I have to call on their cheating?

I dropped a grand on middle school golf (including gas and snacks and various little things), a grand on science club stuff and a grand on other middle school activities( math clubs, fees, scouting, campaign supplies, etc.) That's three grand to send my kid to public school and the people on this board seem to want to drop another grand on the pile because they don't like golfers. When are we going to wise up and recognize the value of educating our children? I pay more in school expenses than I pay in taxes. I would welcome a tax increase. Just use it wisely.

I will fight for recreation and parks money but I believe that that money is but a part of a bigger picture. We don't have to sell out our own to get a better budget. We do need to present a rational position.

fischbobber's picture

Greens fees


Here is the info on Three Ridges for their first jr. tourney.

When Bo outgrew Concord, we got on the waiting list, and were later accepted in the junior program at Holston. At the time, there was some question as to the future management practices of the local public courses. Wonder of wonders and surprise of surprises I found myself with access to some local folks who could actually make a difference. They have.

Despite the economy, junior programs and extremely progressive junior play structures are in place (at least as of last fall) at all the city and county courses.

My experience is that rates vary at all public courses are based on conduct and situation.

I think afternoon rates at Holston for guests are 85 adult, 40 junior. I'm not sure about that though. The junior program at Holston carries a $280.00 yearly fee and a $48.00 monthly charge.

Bo will stay at Holston as long as he wishes. It is the culmination of a vision Reid Harris had years ago for local golf. It is arguably, one of the ten best junior programs in the nation. He would be foolish to leave.

That being said, had the present public structure been in place when I began the search for where to continue my son's golf, we may well have chosen the public course route. It may well have been cheaper, though I am partial to Holston. I don't think there is a better facility in the world for a child to learn the game than Holston Hills Country Club. And I think their fees are beyond reasonable.

Finally I would like to say this. All children need a sports experience. All children should be exposed to both team and individual sports. A child that may not be able to chew gum on a football field might turn out to be an Olympic gold medalist as a curling sweeper. PLEASE DON"T DESTROY JUNIOR GOLF IN KNOXVILLE.

Sorry I can't give you a solid answer.

Lonniewood's picture

Yes, Morality

I agree with many that believe the gauge of a moral society is how they treat their elderly, their disabled, their poor, and downtrodden. There are many items in the County budget that should have a lower priority than the programs that are proposed to be cut. I don't know if I could count three commissioners that would vote for a tax increase, but they should. Serving in an elected office should be about doing your best for the long term interest of your community. In Knox County, with a few exceptions, serving is about doing what it takes to get re-elected or helping the powerful without regard to serving honorably. Based on the ability to pay taxes, Knox County ranks third compared with other counties in the state. There are many counties with higher taxes and less ability to pay than Knox. Knox County students are forced to go without textbooks and other needed supplies each year. Knox County is losing many very qualified teachers because their teacher pay ranks 38th in a state that ranks near the bottom in the nation. So yes, I would increase taxes. I would give the school board taxing authority. If the school board had the power to tax, it would make both the County Commission and the School Board more accountable. We would not get another wheel tax. Citizens would know where their tax money is going. By funding education adequately, and improving our reputation, we would eventually reap the benefits by attracting more business and expanding the tax base. The Mayor opposed what would have been the best idea for Knox County and the state, a state income tax. Being one of the five or six states without the state income tax, Tennessee is also at the bottom in terms of expenditures per student.

Rachel's picture

I would give the school board

I would give the school board taxing authority. If the school board had the power to tax, it would make both the County Commission and the School Board more accountable.

I agree with this. However, I'm not holding my breath for it to happen.

Sandra Clark's picture

Check your premise

The role of government is not to redistribute wealth. We saw how that worked in the USSR.

Budget-making is about setting priorities. That's why I'm not prepared to defend or criticize the Burchett budget.

So the choice is to tax or cut or shuffle. -- s.

Lonniewood's picture

No USSR : Just Plain Ole Decent American Values

Read the Constitution of the United States. Government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. This means all the people. What you are saying is what Hamilton thought, the government should be by and for the elite. Comparing a progressive tax structure to the USSR or saying that a society's citizens health should not be determined by their wealth is communism, this is absurd. Exxon, Mobil, etc. are receiving billions in subsidies from the U.S. government. Thousands of millionaires pay no taxes in the U.S. We are redistributing wealth in America, the rich are getting richer and the middle class and poor are increasingly losing out on a decent standard of living.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


The rate structure of the property tax is flat and any PT rate increase is ultimately applicable only to new development. The sales tax and wheel tax rate structures are also flat.

To the extent that any of the three tax methodologies may be said to "redistribute wealth," all of the three would redistribute it upward, not downward.

Any downward "redistribution of wealth" of the sort so feared by the GOP is a talking point not applicable to this conversation.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Actually, Lonnie, I meant that I would "cut" some commissioners themselves--from office.

I would then reconstitute the flat rate wheel tax into an "ad valorem" tax that levied an amount due based on the value of the vehicle in question.

Finally, I would replace those "cut" commissioners with a few that understood the value of both the increased revenue my reconstituted wheel tax could produce and the programs that revenue could save.

Oh, if I ran the zoo.

Lonniewood's picture

Several "Cuts" Would Be Appropriate

In that case, I agree with your cutting. I am not mentioning names, but my list would include more than a few.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Lonnie: I would give the school board taxing authority. If the school board had the power to tax, it would make both the County Commission and the School Board more accountable.

Rachel: I agree with this. However, I'm not holding my breath for it to happen.

Yeah, in this political environment, it's looking like the first order of business is to preserve the scant authority the school board presently has.

Any thought to expand that authority will necessarily have to follow later.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I hear you, Bob, but unfortunately the school board grapples with how to fund even its academic mission, let alone its extracurricular mission.

In years past, my beef with the schools budget has been that every available dollar seems to have been thrust downward, toward programs for the lowest academic achievers, at the cost of the highest academic achievers.

Two fifteen year olds of nearly equal financial means attend tenth grade in the same local public school system.

One student's school gets Title I money and magnet school money and Project Grad money. His family pays no costs whatsoever for his public school instruction, yet the student performs poorly.

The other student's school gets none of this funding AND his family has to spend out of pocket around $300 per course for texts, supporting texts, exam prep, and exam fees for him to take an AP course, because his higher academic performance resulted in that course placement? And two such courses runs $600, three runs $900, etcetera? *

It's rankling, but of course the answer isn't to suggest that funding should be yanked from the lower performing student to satisfy the needs of the higher performing student (unless I'm having a really bad day).

Here in Knox County, the truth is simply that more school funding is needed generally.

We really should resist the temptation to squabble among ourselves and instead band together to our mutual benefit. It's hard, sometimes.

(* In that particular matter, AP courses, I think the schools are very recently doing a better job of covering the costs of students' textbooks, at least.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Beck is also a community meeting place

Unlike Blount Mansion and James White Fort, to which Dean Rice compares Beck in today's KNS, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center also serves as a community meeting place. Routinely.

Knoxville-Knox County League of Women Voters, of which I'm a member, will hold its annual membership meeting there tonight.

Does this area have other community meeting places, in ample quantity?

EricLykins's picture

"No Senior Left Behind"

"No Senior Left Behind" initiative left behind.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


10,000 senior riders PER MONTH and they couldn't find $75,000 per year anywhere???

That's stooping really, really low.

EconGal's picture

Mustang Granny: Ride Sally, ride

From the City press release:
"Seniors taking advantage of the program equated to between 8,000 and 10,000 rides on KAT per month. "

Can someone get two KAT employees to define "ride" the same way please?

Sandra Clark's picture

Folks, folks

what's that verse..... strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?

Don't be distracted by less than 1 percent of the budget. --s.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Thoughts on Beck Ctr

I was pleased to read in today's KNS that Commissioners Hammond, Broyle, and McKenzie are inclined to augment or restore the county budget for Beck Cultural Center, which Mayor Burchett has recommended cutting severely. That cut from $150K to $12K appears to me to be extreme. Volunteers at Beck maintain that it came without warning, too.

I also question Burchett's having made this budget recommendation in view of his opinion that Beck is a "historical home" comparable to James White Fort and others. It seems to me that Beck is that AND a library AND an archive AND a much-needed meeting place in a community lacking very many of those. Then too, the local history housed at Beck is not duplicated in any manner at any other facility in the county, making Beck's service unique.

That said, it also appears that the county has generously supported Beck's unique mission for many years, including funding (or helping extensively to fund?) Beck's new facility and underwriting a large percentage of their routine operating expenses. In fact, Beck's IRS Form 990 for 2010 indicates that nearly 88% of their funding came from government (pdf page 6 of 13). For purposes of defining a "publicly supported organization," the IRS employs a threshold of government funding at or above 33 1/3%, so clearly Beck presently qualifies as such.

It may be that Beck should remain a "publicly supported organization," but I can't immediately think of another such here in the county to which I could compare Beck, so that I could mull that one over.

I would like to know more about this recent discussion Beck had with the previous county administration, as to whether Beck should become a county-owned and operated enterprise, because I don't fully understand how or why that discussion ended.

For the moment, I tend to think that while the county should NOT pull the rug out from under Beck so abruptly as Burchett's budget recommendation would effect, Beck may nevertheless be relying too heavily on county support for its routine operating expenses.

With due consideration of the broad private support Beck would need to establish to fund its operations with less public money, perhaps they should be working harder on that?

Are there considerations I've missed?

(Edit: I just flipped the position of two paragraphs on "publicly supported organizations," for better continuity of my long-winded "thought.")

EconGal's picture

Re: Thoughts on Beck Ctr

Tamara Shepherd wrote: Are there considerations I've missed?

You aren't serious, are you?

These items are offered without prejudice or conclusion. There are multiple possible explanations for these things:

(1) The annual revenue reported by Beck (on its 990) is less than the annual grant totals from Knox County alone.

(2) Beck operates with a annual revenue budget of a little less than $150,000, not $300,000, as claimed in today's MetroPulse. (This is confirmed by Tamara's own citation of the percent of public support figure)

(3) Beck has operated at a SURPLUS for at least three years, barely spending half of its revenue (government grant money.)

(4) Beck does not report any membership income, despite claiming to have significant membership income.

(5) Over half of Beck's operating expenses are reported as "payments to independent contractors." This is highly unusual for a non-profit.

(6) Beck reports practically (or literally) no privately raised funds.

(7) Beck does not report the source of its endowment corpus.

So yes, I think there might be a couple of considerations you missed.

EconGal's picture

Size matters

Anyhow, let's turn the argument on its head: Why don't any of these other centers that were rolled back to $12000 a year have $700000 endowments? What are they doing wrong

Of course, we might also ask how Beck spent (?)$1.8 million for renovations, has less than $300,000 in accumulated depreciation and book value of "Land, building and equipment" of only $69,000? Perhaps that explains how an entity can accumulate such an endowment.

fischbobber's picture

Costs and funding

*forget budget restraint and fiscal responsibility. More lace on the doilies: They are throwing money at golf courses.

Is your next argument going to be that they are "throwing money at parks and schools"?

Are you proposing to graze goats at Three Ridges for a year in order to see how much it costs to reclaim it?

fischbobber's picture

Public Goods

Affordable public golf courses ARE public goods. Three Ridges was the host of the Nationwide Tour event for years. When the course is in shape, it is one of the better local golf values.

(and tennis courts are not equivalent).

I'm not sure what your point is here. We have been trying to get nets on, and weeds cleared out of tennis courts as well as working on junior golf. I also support student government associations, scouting, TSA, recreational basketball and track, Trout Unlimited, and math clubs. In short, I believe that providing opportunity to the children of our community is worth the cost of providing it.

And while I'm not sure I buy into the formulas of the Knoxville Sports Corporation, if I were to buy into them, I could probably make a pretty good case that Three Ridges generated more community revenue than it cost.

fischbobber's picture

Public Good cont.

You may well have made my argument. If you follow junior golf you would have noted that Vine Middle had a stronger team than Bearden. (Most teams were stronger than Bearden). This did not occur because the local supporters of the game have been exclusive, but in fact, quite the opposite. Stop by the Wee Course, or Beverly Park, or Concord and talk to the pros.

Just because a program doesn't have a huge advertising budget and the people in charge choose actually working with the kids instead of running around looking for limelight, doesn't mean they aren't doing their job.

When I noticed this year that a girl from A.E. had played well enough in the state tournament to qualify for college money, I took that as a sign that our local junior golf program is moving in the right direction. If a child attends a project Grad School there are no greens fees at the Wee Course. Greens Fees are designed to encourage rather than discourage junior participation at Whittle Springs, Knox Municipal, and Three Ridges. Reid Harris started with a vision for local juniors years ago, and , while it has been slow go at times, the junior program in Knoxville stands well against any in the nation. It seems a shame to dismantle a working program in order to prove a point.

Finally, in my opinion, part of the governments role when it come to the education and development of our children is to provide a level playing field whereby all kids are provided equal opportunity to the economic and philosophical benefits of our society. Aside from our junior golf program, I'm not sure there are many of those programs in Knoxville.

fischbobber's picture

A Final Thought

I noticed the the Mayor mentioned that organizations should be more aggressive about fundraising.

I would submit that all properties with an assessed value of over 750,000 thousand dollars be assigned a mandatory donation to a worthy cause determined by looking at underfunded needs within the community. It would be like a tax, only mandatorily voluntary.

fischbobber's picture


Specifically I am looking at one tree that I have helped nurture. And you are proposing cutting down the last Chestnut tree in the forest simply because all the rest are dead.

The Beck Center would be another tree that I believe is worth saving.

Quite often, the problem with offering up sacrifices to shock the public into awareness, is that the public can be apathetic and once the sacrifice is made it's over and forgotten.

I prefer a strategy of just being straightforward and standing up and doing the right thing. I believe that hearing the truth will be such a novelty that there is a strong chance there will be a positive public response. I also think that there will be enough ill will between progressives if we don't band together for all that the odds of us getting anything done at the polls goes down dramatically. I believe a strong, calm, rational position supported by real numbers and data is the smartest way to fight this fight.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Actually, EG, I caught all of those things (with the exception of this MetroPulse story I've yet to read). I was just treading a little more softly than you in opening a discussion on the subject :-)

I will say, though, that our observation in this regard:

(3) Beck has operated at a SURPLUS for at least three years, barely spending half of its revenue (government grant money.)

...appears to answer our observation in this regard:

(7) Beck does not report the source of its endowment corpus.

...and it sounds like we agree that that's probably not appropriate, especially given our observations in this regard:

(4) Beck does not report any membership income, despite claiming to have significant membership income.

(6) Beck reports practically (or literally) no privately raised funds.

Speaking only for myself, though, I'd very much appreciate hearing from any of Beck's board members on this subject, a few of whom I know read and/or post here at KV?

EconGal's picture

Sorry Tamara...

...I'm not good at very many things, and subtlety is one of them.

(yogi Berra paraphrased, I think.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


No problem--we understood each other.

To hopefully invite the participation of any Beck board member lurking, though, and to get a genuine discussion rolling...

I'll say again that I agree with Econ Gal that Beck should not solicit, then stash away, the county's grant support.

I respect the institutional knowledge of Beck directors as to their decision to fund future operations through the establishment of endowment--they know better than we--but I do not think Beck is reasonable to expect the county to single-handedly fund that endowment, either.

Has Beck tried to fundraise broadly, as in county-wide, in the past? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

First these questions, then several others raised by this Form 990 containing some puzzling information...

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I just dug out some materials used by those of us reviewing grant applications for the county's first Citizens Advisory Panel for Community Grants, back in 2008, and found a worksheet we used that was designed to help us weigh and assign point values to the various aspects of applicants' written applications (we subsequently interviewed applicants, too).

Under the heading "Funding Need," which was one of seven aspects of the written apps we evaluated, we were to weigh these considerations:

Provides vision for the program and strategies for achieving this vision.

Identifies clear need for funding.

Demonstrates a need for funding from Knox County to ensure success.

Leverages other resources for additional funding.

Pursues collaborative relationships with a diverse number of agencies, both public and private.

Demonstrates broad community support and involvement.

Applying that metric, it seems Beck's efforts are falling short in the three areas I highlight above?

I'm thinking Beck DOES require funding from KC beyond this $12K in Burchett's budget, but DOES NOT deserve funding of $150K--absent some indication of fundraising effort (even failed fundraising effort) on their part?

j.f.m.'s picture

It's All More Complicated

People are latching onto these 990s without understanding them. I don't understand them either, completely, because it's all bound up in the very complicated story of the Memorandum of Understanding under the Ragsdale administration. Which I also don't understand, and have heard some very conflicting things about from people who were directly involved in its drafting and dissolution.

But anyway, according to Avon Rollins when I asked him about it today, the 990s from the years while the MoU were in effect reflect funding other than Knox County funding -- because during those years the Beck Center was treated as essentially a county operation (which is reflected in its placement under the library fund in the county budgets). That was in effect until last August, and the most recent 990 available only goes through last July. Now, I'm not an accountant or a tax lawyer, so whether the county's structure of all this was a conventional deal or something more novel, I don't know -- but it does seem to have been a county structure, not something the Beck dreamed up.

How exactly the Beck was supposed to operate as simultaneously a 501c3 with its own board and part of the library system, I don't understand, and it doesn't sound like it ever really worked. (At Monday's meeting, Sam McKenzie said he has studied the MoU and tried to figure it out until his head hurt.) But trying to figure out its finances from those years just from the 990s is basically looking at just one piece of the picture. You also have to remember that it was under construction during a lot of this time, it moved, and then unmoved, its archives were in storage, etc -- so none of those years would look anything like its current year, from a fiscal standpoint. It only reopened in April 2010.

Whether the Beck was a cause and project the county should have ever taken on is obviously a policy question that you could argue in various directions. But what seems to clear to me is that it did -- under Ragsdale, the county committed itself to a major investment in the center, and to some ongoing level of support to keep it operating into the future as it ramped up its own financial base. Deciding to terminate that support is also a policy decision that can be argued in various directions.

Pam Strickland's picture

Thanks, Jesse. I haven't had

Thanks, Jesse. I haven't had time to dive into this or any of the other very controversial aspects of the budget proposal. However, from what little I've read, it's very complicated. There are seldom any clear black and white (not pun intended) arguments. There are lots of shades of gray.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

A correction here...

Yes, thanks Jesse--especially for cluing us in as to this previous Memorandum of Understanding, which I don't see mentioned in the KNS story.

I ventured a call to Sheryl Rollins earlier tonight to tell her we're talking here and to ask if she or Avon (or some representative of theirs) might chime in to answer our several questions. She confessed to not being much familiar with blogs, but offered to pass on my request to Avon.

I went ahead and previewed with her what some of our questions have been. When I asked her whether that endowment had been funded in full or in part with Beck's Knox County grant money, she was aghast to learn that I had thought such. Sheryl says 100% of the endowment has been supplied by area residents' final bequests and that Beck's Knox County grant funding has never been used in that manner.

I remain puzzled by how the Form 990 reads, but I certainly trust Sheryl to tell me the truth--especially after I indicated to her that I would make this post to correct for all of you my mistaken understanding.

Given my mistaken understanding, I should probably cease trying to decipher that Form 990 and just wait until someone from Beck has a minute to do that for us more authoritatively.

I'll be pleased to hear from him/her.

marytheprez's picture

Beck and its funding and the other 'priorities' of the Mayor

I have learned a lot since I wrote this original post...first, apparently the Beck Center receives a good part of its funding from the "Hotel-Motel Tax" because it actually draws tourists from around the country to visit the historical documents displayed there, especially the Civil Rights collection. And an initial partial total of visitors to Beck, according to Mr. Rollins indicated over 80,000 children visited last year.
But my post was also specific about where Burchett's priorities were draconian. I attended the Commission meeting Monday where we listened to the Sheriff's Dept have its budget approved without one single question, the Public Works Dept announce it was given over $300,000 MORE than it requested and that it plans to build a road in Farragut costing $2.1 million that will only benefit a few. (Questions were asked about that item!)

The PBA SHOULD most definitely have to face intense scrutiny about its $6.3 what buildings it 'maintains', how big is its payroll, etc. I am sure the 3 Rivers Golf Course Fund is worthy, but even tho' most kids enjoy learning the game, golf is an expensive sport, and I do not feel that taxpayers should fund this endeavor to the tune of $1.5 million. And all the items cut totally: Mobile meals, etc...Burchett said these folks just need to get out and raise their own money! Finally, I learned about the HRC, HOPE Resource Center, a totally religion based entity which is based on 'saving souls', teaching women and girls twisted dogma, not facts about sexuality, and it is totally illegal to pay for private, religous endeavors with tax payer money. I plan to attend as many Commission meetings as I can when this budget is discussed. It is NOT a choice between tax or cut. It is a simple matter of serving all the citizens equally. It is obvious from previous articles in media that the County Mayor doesn't bother to get first hand information about 80% of issues regarding his office but depends on whoever he sends to all the board meetings, commissions and forums. This lack of direct interest in his responsibilities is evident in this budget.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I learned about the HRC, HOPE Resource Center, a totally religion based entity which is based on 'saving souls', teaching women and girls twisted dogma, not facts about sexuality, and it is totally illegal to pay for private, religous endeavors with tax payer money.

Yes, I saw that story in MP and it makes me a little squirmy, too.

Well, I wouldn't have you or anybody else think I'm a "Beck basher," Mary.

Setting aside this question of budget priorities and focusing for the moment on just budget processes, it's just that my experience serving on that first Citizen's Advisory Panel for Community Grants some years back left me concerned that--at that point, anyway--we still had some holes in our application review process.

I do support Beck's mission and I do believe that non-profits of many sorts deliver needed services cheaper and more effectively than government could possibly deliver the same services directly (non-profits use volunteers, for Pete's sake).

Then--when I served on that Advisory Panel--and now, all I'm trying to suggest is that we nevertheless need to ensure that we adequately understand grant applicants' operations, so that our government subsidies may be allocated to the most efficient of these non-profits.

Right this minute, I don't adequately understand Beck's operations, that's all.

marytheprez's picture

Thanks, Tamara...I wasn't criticizing your position,

but I have learned so much about all the roles that Beck fills for not only Knox County but the entire East TN area. But to lump it together to all the other "houses" here, and also giving money to something connected with "the Sons of the Conferacy"...just awful. The Beck Center is a major repository in the Southeast U.S. of history of the Civil Rights movement. It also contains documents and history of LOCAL ethnic leaders of this area, provides educational programs that obviously inspire and educate our children that they can achieve their goals in life and shows them that others of their color and background can overcome challenges. Everyone here who denegrates Beck should go and take a tour. It is open 11 to 6 most days and welcomes visitors.
And cutting vital programs like Beck, Mobile Meals, transportation for Seniors...this is my issue.

Rice and Burchett's other 'advisors' should have worked out a much more issues driven budget. And if the GOP insists on refusing to raise taxes even one penny until hell freezes over to pay for better schools, then they should get their rich contributors to set up a fund to pay for our community needs....just sayin'.

EconGal's picture

Facts vs explanations

JFM wrote: the 990s from the years while the MoU were in effect reflect funding other than Knox County funding --

Perhaps. But 90 percent or so of the revenues reflected on these "non-Knox County 990s" is still categorized as grants from governments. It is not membership income or other revenue from private sources.

Tamara writes: Sheryl says 100% of the endowment has been supplied by area residents' final bequests

Simply untrue. In each of the last three years, at least, the investment account has been added to from the operating surplus - which is a direct result of having more revenue than expenses. We may not yet know all of the sources of the revenue, but the tax return indicates that almost all of it is from some governmental entity - not a bequest. Perhaps the original corpus was from an inheritance(s), but not the recent increases.

The recent increases in the account have come from investment income and from receiving more in subsidy than was spent on operations.

I'm guessing a lot of people are struggling to read the tax returns, including the people responsible for preparing them.

Sorry Tamara. I blew the subtlety thing again.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


And no apology necessary (again), EG.

Your observation that the 990 reflects nearly 88% of Beck's operating income coming from some government's coffers is spot on.

Was that unique to 2010, or to recent years only? I dunno, because I've looked at just the one year's return.

I'll have to take another look at this 2010 return to better follow your observation about how the endowment appears to have been augmented, which I lack the time to do this morn.

(Out the door, but will check in later today to see if we have any new info to digest.)

EconGal's picture


One possible way to reconcile all of these discrepancies is to throw the CPA who prepared the returns under the bus.

it would be a shame if the supporting documents and checking account records had been lost in the various moves in the last couple of years.

Mayshark's picture

Another Small Clarification

Rollins says that of the $750,000 shown as reserves on the most recent 990, around $200,000 was actually money for operating expenses for the current year. The prospective endowment money is somewhere between $500,000 and $550,000. So to the extent that some money was accumulated there year to year, a fair amount of it has been spent in the current year. (Which is where the $300,000 budget number comes from: that plus the $150,000 from the county in the current year.) You have to remember that the center was not operating at full capacity during the construction/renovation, so it theoretically makes sense that money from those years would have been set aside against the full staffing and expenses after the reopening in April 2010.

Like I said, I don't begin to understand all the line items and ins and outs of what money went where over the past five years. But people who are being very loose with allegations of mismanagement or funny business (more on knoxnews than here) are operating on very partial information. You would have to go back through all of those years and see exactly what was going on at the various stages of the Memorandum of Understanding and the moving and construction and so forth. A lot of people commenting on this have paid no attention at all to Beck during the past decade, and now are trying to draw conclusions based on a few pieces of paper with no sense of how they fit into a complicated picture.

EconGal's picture

Do you have any returns prior

Do you have any returns prior to 6/30/08? I'd be happy to review them.

Mayshark's picture

The Foundation Center has

The Foundation Center has them back through 2001: (link...)

Mayshark's picture

What it shows is a steady

What it shows is a steady accumulation of reserves, from about $300,000 to the current level. Since they don't break down specific grants and contributions, it's hard to know where the various monies were directed. But the trajectory at least is in line with the stated goal of the board of directors starting in the late '90s to build toward a sustainable endowment.

EconGal's picture

The older 990s...

I will provide a year-by-year analysis this weekend, when I get the data into a spreadsheet. Some observations:

There have been gifts in SOME years into "donor advised funds."

Fundraising expenses appear to exceed funds raised over this time period. Appear. It's close, anyway.

Most of the additions to the cash account come from operating surplus.

To the extent Beck has received bequests or gifts from people, they have bankrolled those gifts rather than spend them. To my knowledge, not other local recipient of government money does that.

I'll get the data into an organized, analyzable form tomorrow. I'm sure you can't wait. (Sarcasm is a type of subtlety isn't it, Tamara?)

Have a great weekend everyone.

R. Neal's picture

they have bankrolled those

they have bankrolled those gifts rather than spend them

Isn't that how you would set up an endowment? Haven't studied any of this or followed it closely, that was just a thought that came to mind.

j.f.m.'s picture

I'd also again caution

I'd also again caution against assuming that you can get a full picture of their finances and operations from 990s alone. That does not seem to be the case.

And yes, I don't see what's odd about setting money aside toward a prospective endowment. My understanding is that that has been part of the long-term plan ever since they decided on this expansion. It's funny to me that some people are trying to find something sinister about a nonprofit having money in the bank. When there are financial problems with nonprofits, it's usually in the other direction.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Randy and Jesse, I do note that Econ Gal placed a caveat in her comment, here:

To the extent Beck has received bequests or gifts from people, they have bankrolled those gifts rather than spend them. To my knowledge, no other local recipient of government money does that.

At first, that rang true to me, too.

Then I thought of UT!

It's at times like this that I wish I had broader experience in public accounting--I'm out of my comfort zone on this one.

EconGal's picture

Tamara's exception is quite

Tamara's exception is quite right. UT does whatever it damn well pleases. I was thinkingkind the kind that are always struggling to make payroll.

UT is a non profit in the same way a hospital is - it's a joke.

Remember - the original claim was that without the county money BCC would have no choice but close. That does nit appear to be true.

And yes, JFM, it is dangerous to read too much into a couple year's tax returns. Ten years worth, however, is fair. Nefarious? Who knows. Sloppy? At a minimum, I am willing to wager.

Consistent with the news reports and claims of their defenders? Highly doubtful.

What is the 30-40k per year paid to "independent contractors?" Every year. Despite the significant number of seeming holes in the reports, this line doesn't obviously fill any of hem.

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