Large-scale capital projects, a balanced budget and a steady focus on the city’s future were highlighted as reasons for public confidence at Franklin’s 2022 State of the City address May 11.
“Most of the time change is a good thing; it is how we grow and get stronger,” Franklin Mayor Ken Moore said about the past year. “I believe this past year has helped us all be the best versions of ourselves.”
At the annual presentation at Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, remarks by Moore and City Administrator Eric Stuckey alternated with a series of parody videos of “Ted Lasso,” “Top Gun” and “Yellowstone” that integrated information on the city’s last year.
The theme of the presentation was “Better Together,” which Moore said referenced city workers being a cohesive unit who helped the city maintain a strong position despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic and other upheavals. The presentation focused on several aspects of the city’s past 12 months.
Moore began by discussing the Oct. 31 opening of the $45.1 million northwest extension of the Mack C. Hatcher Parkway, extending from Hillsboro Road to south of New Hwy. 96 West in Franklin, that has helped reduce travel times for residents and commuters through the city, Moore said.
The project includes a single-lane bridge in each direction over the Harpeth River.
“We’ve been waiting for 25 years for [the] Mack Hatcher northwest extension, and we’ve got it now,” Moore said. “What a treat for the people who live nearby and have had to come through downtown. It is making such a huge difference for us.”
This summer, the city is also set to complete a $150 million upgrade and expansion to the city’s wastewater facilities that began three and a half years ago.
“It will be more efficient and better for the environment,” Moore said.
The city is finishing the SR 96 multiuse trail project at a total cost of $4.2 million, Stuckey said.
Looking forward, in late March the city approved a $1.4 million study for design and other work on a new Franklin City Hall to replace the retrofitted 1970s era shopping center, where more than 30% of the space is unusable for city department needs.
The city hopes to complete building the new city hall by 2026, according to city officials.
City administrators have recommended a $74.5 million option to build a 78,500-square-foot facility with 204 underground parking spaces.
“It has outrun its life,” Moore said of the building. “It is a former shopping mall and is in disrepair and constantly a maintenance nightmare, so it does need updating.”
Moore also touted the Southeast Municipal Recreation Complex, a 188-acre park off Carothers Parkway that will include a $3 million all-abilities playground called Ellie G’s Dream World.
Half of the money for the project, which is slated to be finished in 2024, will be raised by The Friends of Franklin Park.
The play space will include elements, such as basket swings; a safari adventure vehicle that sways gently with bucket seats and tall seat backs; and a variety of climbing options that are well suited to children with conditions, such autism and ADHD.
“It is going to be a real jewel in our southeast part of Franklin,” Moore said.
The city’s proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget of $207 million is 15.1% higher than the previous year, but strong property tax revenues and reserves are allowing the city to balance the budget without a property tax increase.
During the presentation, Michael Walters Young, the city's budget and analytics manager, highlighted the city’s AAA bond ratings from Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s rating services.
While the city’s budget relies largely on consumption taxes, the city has seen an average of 3.9% growth year over year in those taxes for the past 25 years, he said.
“What is a concern for most cities is Franklin’s strength, and we use a lot of sales tax to fund our government,” Young said. “The city of Franklin is as stable as it gets.”
The city’s use of $20 million in cash toward financing capital projects this year is also enabled by the city’s strong revenues and financial position, Stuckey added.
“We’re making sure we’re not overly dependent on debt, and that number [20 million] is just this year to help with key projects,” Stuckey said.
At the end of the presentation, Moore reiterated the theme of “Better Together” and expressed his admiration for city workers and his colleagues on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for their role in keeping the city moving forward.
“I believe we are better together,” Moore said. “That’s how we get things done in Franklin, by working together and serving the community with love in our hearts.”
The entire presentation can be viewed on the city's YouTube channel.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore delivers 2022 State of the City address
Franklin Mayor Ken Moor addresses the audience at Franklin's State of the City 2022 the morning of May 11 at Rolling HIlls Community Church in Franklin. (Martin Cassidy/Community Impact Newspaper)