published Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Chattanooga: Budget cut would mean layoffs

by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Ron Littlefield

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chattanooga police field training officer Edward Tinney fills his tank with fuel before his shift on George Team in sector 3.

More than 100 city employees could be laid off, most of them police officers, if the Chattanooga City Council decides to reduce next year’s budget by 5 percent, records show.

“People need to see what the effect is,” Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday. “Everybody says, ‘Can’t you squeeze more?’ Yes, we can squeeze more, but there’s a price to be paid for that.”

City Council members are reviewing three 2011 fiscal scenarios: a budget that increases spending by $25 million; a budget that maintains spending at current levels; and a budget that reduces spending by 5 percent.

Councilman Manny Rico said Friday he doesn’t know if a budget reduction is an option, considering most of the layoffs would occur within the police department.

“You can forget about that then,” he said. “To me, public safety and public works are the untouchables. You’ve got to have them.”

Reducing overall department spending by 5 percent would force the layoff of at least 109 employees, including 85 sworn police officers, 10 employees in Public Works, 10 in the Department of Parks and Recreation, two in general government and one each in Personnel and Neighborhood Services, documents show.

City Hall also would shut down on Fridays, allowing no one in the building but cleaning crews. The land development office in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Development Resource Center on Market Street would close early on Fridays and the Department of General Services would go to four-day work weeks, records show.

Building a budget by keeping spending level with this year’s could result in at least 51 layoffs, 49 of them sworn police officers, records show.

The City Council is grappling with revenues that are not meeting budget expectations. Year-end projections call for almost $2.5 million less in revenue than last year, from $167.5 million to $165 million, records show.

Mr. Littlefield said his budget proposal, which he will present May 18, likely would be closer to the $197 million figure that would raise spending, and he suggested a property tax increase might be needed.

“We can’t say what that increase will be,” he said.

The city last passed a property tax increase on Sept. 11, 2001. The current rate is $2.20 per $100 of assessed value.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget, Personnel and Finance Committee, said the council may need to look at raising revenue, not necessarily with property tax increases. The council will explore all options, she said, but she is inclined toward the $197 million budget.

“I would hope it would be fully implemented,” she said. “The city has a lot of needs, and they aren’t (a) wish list.”

Mr. Littlefield said other revenue sources, such as the hotel/motel tax, have been “tapped out.” The hotel/motel tax is paying for the 21st Century Waterfront project, he said. The city sticker would have to go to referendum for voter approval, and any “sin” taxes would need state approval, he said.

Dan Johnson, Mr. Littlefield’s chief of staff, said last week the department heads have done a good job of turning in budgets that accurately reflect their needs.

“The last five years we’ve been in office, we’ve squeezed,” he said. “We’re cutting meat.”


Interim police Chief Mark Rawlston said last week that the department’s budget did not include made-up layoffs or imaginary numbers.

“Those are people,” he said. “We’ve cut everything extra out. There’s no frill.”

Larry Zehnder, director of Parks and Recreation, said Friday his department already hasreduced hours at recreation centers around town, just as efforts to get teenagers off the streets are intensifying.

“You keep cutting, it’s going to be seen in many ways,” he said.

One of those ways could be reflected in more crime, with teenagers finding themselves with nothing to do, he said. His department is trying to give teens something to do, he said.

“I’d certainly rather prevent problems than deal with problems,” he said.

Fire Chief Randy Parker said his department submitted a budget with no reductions. Because of annexation, there are more needs, he said.

The fire department just had a class for new firefighters, and a new fire station is about to open at Enterprise South, he said.

A 5 percent budget reduction is out of the question, he said.

“It would devastate us,” Chief Parker said.


* $197 million: Amount that meets all department requests

* $172 million: Amount that keeps spending at current levels

* $167 million: Amount that cuts spending by 5 percent from this year’s spending levels

* 109: Potential layoffs under a budget reduced 5 percent

* 51: Potential layoffs if the city maintains current spending

Source: Chattanooga budget documents

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Cleveland: Facing budget challenge

Article: Electric linemen get raises in Dayton

Article: Communities face shortage of funds to commemorate Civil War

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Quiroga said...

If Chattanooga lays off 100 police officers, then I made the right choice in buying a handgun and getting the permit to carry. I had an attempted home invasion 2 years ago but was able to hold the front door shut while they were kicking it. Thanks to the quick action of Fort Oglethorpe Police and Catoosa Co. Sheriff the b a s t a r d s ran away.

April 11, 2010 at 8:14 a.m.
My2centsworth said...

I do not read or see any mention of PAY CUTS for city officials. hmmm I guess they are too important for something as silly as that. "we would not want to inconvenience them in any way" I went to a "land grab" meeting awhile back and at that meeting it was explained that the annexation was simply for the money. Not for any other benefit or in anyway to help the people in these areas - just that they need the money for the City. (where is all the money from the last several "LAND(money) GRABS?") At that meeting the Police department stated they did not have enough Police to adequately protect what they already had, and the same was stated by the Fire department. One individual on the commission stated how OUTRAGED he was about "all those people that come into HIS town and use there streets and sidewalks, and parking and everything. He went on and on about non-city people using up His Cities resources and not paying anything for them." I guess he spends his entire life and time within the City and never ventures outside it's limits. Yeah right.

Any way - Not Once - did I hear one word about pay cuts or belt tightening. Not one comment about Balancing or Producing a budget that would require them to live within their means. Not once have I heard about creating a rainy-day fund, or an emergency fund, or any type of fiscally responsible arguments that would plan for something like this. Like all politicians the first thing out of their mouths is cutting - Teachers, Police, Parks, Sanitation, or Firemen. This is a typical scare tactic, and then they all say "OR WE WILL HAVE TO RAISE TAXES" to keep our current level of living and Salary. Why not have an AUDIT to see exactly where the excess waste is and start from there. If I ran a business like they run the City I would have been in jail and out of business a long time ago.

You created and perpetuated this abysmal situation now live with it. It is too easy to keep taking from the taxpayer and small business to cover for your incompetence and ineptitude. Perhaps we should hold you personally and financially responsible for your actions - that sounds fair to me.

Beware the politician that opens their mouth - nothing good ever came out.

USSA is one day closer.

April 11, 2010 at 1:31 p.m.
eyeonyou said...

I am all for protection but I have noticed over the past few years officers that need to be relocated to higher crime areas! We have witnessed 5 to 8 police cars showing up to a scene that is not considered critical or no where near it! Of course who am I to say what a critical situation can become. I pass sometimes 5 police cars in just a mile or two not coming or going from a police facility. I live in a low crime area that I don't believe the many police are contributing toward. I see much downtime and cocky attitudes that can be used in the high crime areas! Keep the good ones on the beat that make a difference, a positive influence to our youth. I have met some dedicated officers and some who seem to hate their jobs! I can't believe our taxes pay for some of them! I hope the layoffs consider their records, attitudes and areas of needed change!

April 11, 2010 at 1:56 p.m.
Salsa said...

They should re-name this article "Scare Tactics".

April 11, 2010 at 3:27 p.m.
Tax_Payer said...

I'm glad I don't work for this rotting city, and if I did, I definately would be hanging my head in shame.

April 11, 2010 at 6:01 p.m.
InspectorBucket said...

What the frak?

Is this the same Mayor who only two weeks ago insisted that Chattanooga must pay an ineffective chief of police several hundred thousands of dollars to warm a seat with his bum?

Now he insists that laying off almost 100 police officers is a necessary "effect"?



Everybody get in their cars right now and drive into Glendon Place.

The street is Glendon Drive.

Don't quit honking until the Lord Mayor comes out his front door and delivers his resignation speech.

April 11, 2010 at 9:37 p.m.
rolando said...

Good Lord, Inspector, if that Flash Mob actually happens the black InterPol choppers will grab you for Inciting To Riot! The gov'mnt is looking for people to bust for that offense. Look what happened in Michigan!

April 11, 2010 at 10:27 p.m.
rolando said...

Salsa, you got it exactly right. Scare tactics. Problem is, we aren't buying it anymore.

April 11, 2010 at 10:28 p.m.
joecrash1 said...

Why dont they lay off all the admin people and Ron Littlemind instead. The PD is so shorthanded, 100 officers would comprise the majority of the workforce. Typical Demoncratic ploy to try and raise taxes by scaring everyone.

April 12, 2010 at 7:54 a.m.
Sailorman said...

35 comments about "Confederate history" and only 9 about this??!! If that's indicative of the priorities, no wonder we're going down the tubes.

April 12, 2010 at 2:31 p.m.
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