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Kingsport officials tout successes, future plans at State of City event

Matthew Lane • Oct 4, 2019 at 4:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Financially speaking, the Model City is in good shape. Even though sales tax collections over the past year were rather sluggish, the city did end its fiscal year with a $1.5 million surplus, with good chunks of that money going into the rainy day fund and toward additional street resurfacing.

A number of high-profile facilities, like Bays Mountain Park and the Kingsport Aquatic Center, are receiving major upgrades, and Kingsport is working on a collaborative plan to address the growing concern over its homeless population.

These were just some of the issues discussed Friday morning at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center, where more than 100 city and county officials, business, education and community leaders gathered to hear an update about what’s going on in the Model City.

For the past six years, Kingsport has held a State of the City event to talk about its financial picture, to highlight some of the projects that have been accomplished over the past year and to give folks a preview of the major things that will be happening in the near future.

City Manager Chris McCartt, who has been on the job just over 100 days, told attendees it’s very important for Kingsport to look at how it can constantly be investing in itself.

“If you’re standing still, then you’re going backwards,” he said.

COMMENTS FROM THE CITY MANAGER

McCartt began his remarks talking about the financial picture of the city, noting that Kingsport is a $215 million operation, very diverse, and provides a variety of services for its citizens. The ratings with Moody’s Investor Service and Standard & Poor will likely stay the same this year, and both companies are pleased with the city’s management of its debt, McCartt added.

“Our revenues are heavily dominated by property and sales taxes. Becoming more diverse in our economy ... that’s something we’ve strived for since 1999,” McCartt said.

This past year was rather sluggish for Kingsport with sales tax collections growing less than 1%. One month in to the current fiscal year, the city is pleased with the numbers that have come in.

Despite the small growth in 2019, the city did end its fiscal year with a $1.5 million surplus, which allowed for the funding of a number of projects that were put on hold at the beginning of the year. Street resurfacing got an additional $500,000 (which will in turn leverage another $2 million in state funds), Kingsport put $250,000 in its rainy day fund, and another $250,000 is going toward the building department to improve interaction with local builders.

Regarding debt, McCartt said Kingsport is moving toward a very consistent rate and management of its debt level. It’s well below both the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s self-imposed 10% level and the state’s legal limit of 20%.

VARIOUS CAPITAL PROJECTS

McCartt noted the progress made on the following facilities:

— Transit Center: The facility opened this year and a grant will allow the city to add an adjacent garage for all of its buses.

— Bays Mountain Park: Over the past four years, more than $3 million has gone toward the park to repair the dam, add 100 parking spaces and make major nature center improvements. There’s $400,000 in this year’s budget for the park, and over the next 10 years about $7 million has been earmarked for Bays Mountain.

— Aquatic Center: Construction is underway on a $2 million expansion, including a new outdoor park, pavilion and nearby office space.

— Miracle Field: Kingsport broke ground on the project this week. Once it is completed next spring, the facility will be the only one of its kind within 100 miles of the Model City.

— Lynn View Community Center: New bleachers and a press box have been erected at the football stadium, and Kingsport plans to redo the track and add playground equipment in the coming years.

— Greenbelt: Construction is underway to add a 10th mile to the trail on the eastern end toward Cleek Road. A similar push is in the works for the western end near the Rotherwood neighborhood.

— Infrastructure: Kingsport has earmarked $2.4 million this year for street resurfacing and $500,000 for sidewalk improvements. Coupled with the recent addition for street resurfacing, Kingsport will have allocated close to $7 million for paving over the past couple of years.

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