KNOXVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and the General Assembly have honored the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service for its 60 years of service to the state’s 347 cities.
The governor signed a resolution honoring MTAS on March 31, and the agency has its official 60th anniversary date this week. The resolution honoring MTAS was sponsored by state Sens. Tim Burchett, Roy Herron and Ken Yager and Rep. Josh Evans.
“It is fitting that this General Assembly should pause to specially recognize those public entities which have served the citizens of the State with the utmost in professionalism and a keen interest in improving the lives of all Tennesseans,” the resolution states. “The Municipal Technical Advisory Service is one such estimable organization.”
Senate Bill 607, signed on April 15, 1949, established MTAS at the University of Tennessee “for studies and research in municipal government, publications, educational conferences and attendance thereat and in furnishing technical, consultative and field services to municipalities in problems relating to fiscal administration, accounting, tax assessment and collection, law enforcement, improvements and public works, and in any and all matters relating to municipal government.”
Today, MTAS is one of four agencies of the statewide UT Institute for Public Service. In fiscal year 2008, MTAS answered more than 9,100 requests for assistance and provided more than 41,000 training hours to nearly 11,000 participants. Furthermore, the agency helped municipalities reduce costs or increase revenues and bring more than $17.7 million in favorable economic impact to Tennessee communities.
Former Tennessee Municipal League Executive Director Joseph Sweat once said, “MTAS hits perfect balance. On one side, it’s located at the University, so it is protected from having raw politics override professional technical assistance. On the other side, it’s still close to the street, so it is forced to give practical advice that works in the often grubby world of government — perfect balance.”
In the past 60 years, MTAS has maintained this balancing act as the number of municipalities has grown from 230 in 1950 to now 347. In its first year of service, MTAS’ five-person staff assisted 67 cities. MTAS now employs more than 50 personnel and the agency serves a state of just over 6 million people, almost double the state’s 1950 population.
With five offices across Tennessee, MTAS extends the University’s outreach beyond its academic campuses and metropolitan areas. Nine municipal management consultants, all with prior experience in municipal leadership, serve cities in 10 regions of the state. Additional MTAS personnel are specialists in law, police management, public works, library services, finance and accounting, training, fire services, human resources utilities and information technology.
Day-to-day, MTAS helps cities write ordinances, draft annual budgets, address cash flow problems, find suitable locations for fire stations, lower fire insurance ratings, analyze water and sewer rates, and evaluate police operations.