In the current mayor and Council races, the City Council Community Improvement Fund has been referred to as a “slush fund” that allow Council members to reward supporters in their districts.
They are usually called “202” funds, after the designated line in the city budget. At one time, the Council members controlled $40,000 each and some of the designations were suspect. Over the years the amount has been reduced to $20,000; the Council members call in and have paperwork done and the item goes on the Council agenda on what is essentially a “consent calendar” or an automatic approval. The funds usually go to buy Little League uniforms, repair a sidewalk, or any number of items requested of Council members. For example, at Tuesday night’s meeting, Council members Brenda Palmer and Nick Pavlis requested $350 to help with “certain academic needs” at Central High School, and Nick Della Volpe designated $500 for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.
The requests are reviewed by city departments to make sure the money isn’t going to a suspect group. As a practical matter it is more of an administrative convenience. Otherwise, requests to Council members would require staff and the mayor to take up time evaluating every request and money would have to be found in the budget. Under the current system a certain amount of money is set aside for such community projects.