published Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Chattanooga City Council OKs budget

by Cliff Hightower
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The City Council will meet again 2 p.m. July 12 to discuss funding for agencies. The council will decide how to appropriate about $20 million to the agencies and after approval it will become part of the 2011-12 budget.

The Chattanooga City Council approved a $201 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year Tuesday night, even as discussion continues about how to fund several quasi-governmental and social service agencies.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, said Tuesday she felt the agency funding would be brought to a head when the council meets again.

“It will be able to be voted on in two weeks,” she said.

The council voted 8-0 Tuesday on the second and final reading of the city’s budget. Councilman Andraé McGary was not present at the meeting.

The budget includes no new property tax increase and has increased by almost $20 million this year. Part of that additional funding comes from the city gaining about $10 million in sales-tax money once diverted to the county as part of the 45-year-old sales tax agreement. That agreement expired last month.

City officials have said they would use all of the $10 million to fund agencies.

Agency funding was intentionally left out of the budget passed Tuesday night. The council will address agency spending in a special-called meeting on Tuesday, July 12 and should divvy out how much money agencies will get.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said after the council meeting he felt he presented a balanced budget and he wants to make sure most of the agencies get funded, including those within the mental health services realm.

“The city will be doing more than its share,” Littlefield said.

Several residents came to council members after the meeting pleading for them to fund mental health service agencies, such as the Fortwood Center and Joe Johnson Mental Health.

Chris Brooks, organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, told council members that “people’s lives will be destroyed if these agencies aren’t funded.”

“Chattanooga has the means, and I believe Chattanooga has the heart,” he said.

The budget passed this year with limited controversy compared to last year when the mayor proposed a 62-cent tax increase. That increase was ultimately cut to a 37-cent property tax increase.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said after the meeting she felt pleased with the budget. It included some small increases for employee compensation, infrastructure improvements and parks and recreation, she said.

She said she saw no drama from this year’s budget.

“Other than people wanting to fund the agencies, I didn’t hear a lot from my constituents,” she said.

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bpqd said...

The budget also approved $328,000 for " . . . web design services to create a new Content Management System and migration of all applicable data to a completely new database, with Phase I projected cost of $128,000.00 and Phase II projected cost of $200,000.00 based on $85.00 per hour, subject to appropriation."

Guys, a content management system with database is an Internet forum. It's not much different from this comment box.

Many of those CMS systems, particularly those run on LAMP, Linux-Apache-MySql-PHP, are available for free.


Open source CMS has been around for years now. Drupal, Joomla, PHP Nuke and CMF (a common bulletin board service) are often available as part of a package installation., for example, offers these programs to all of their web hosting customers. Installing and setting up one of these is not that complicated.

The resolution adopted pays these guys $85 an hour for phase II. I would have billed you the deluxe rate of $25 an hour for 14 weeks; $14,000.

This job is not worth $328,000. It's overpriced by well over a quarter of a million dollars. Initial installation, even for a large organization like the city, for only its public website, with complete page-by-page recoding and overhauls: I'd still bill under $14,000.

Keeping premium tech support on call for a calendar year: still, maybe only $125 a month. A day's work a month with banker's hours. Over the course of a year, barring any major emergencies, even with expenses, you should have been looking at a first year labor and coding charge of under $20,000.

There are those two outsourced companies used currently; maybe those fees would have to be continued. Still, this job is not worth $328,000.

I encourage you to open this project for bids. Really, it's something that could be done by computer science students at any one of your local colleges and universities.

It's obvious that 12 people could have been employed, full time, all year, minding this task for what you're going to pay. Even with time for refinements, testing, recoding and re-evaluations and documentation, this is a one man job for one season, at most.

I say one man for one season of work because it's obvious that the main effort can be completed in under a month. That's with custom styling and a lot of data entry. The three month stretch is to get it right, so that your website is locked down with low levels of errors. Since it's a showpiece, it has to look right and stay that way.

Keeping a website cheap and stable could be done for less, by not bothering with a forum. Because the databases run on SQL, they're always subject to hacking. So, you keep a help desk, which you probably already have as part of your city budget, maybe an online chat box for quick typing help; skip the low security internet forum and do the project mostly with static web pages locked down with a simple PERL script in APACHE.

$14,000, plus expenses.

June 29, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
bpqd said...

Tell your guy over at Maycreate we said, "1=1 not $328,000." He'll understand we understand the security vulnerabilities in that SQL database used to organize a CMS. We know it's not worth $328,000.

With as unpopular as Mayor Littlefield is, that CMS is likely to be hacked through SQL injection on the first day. I would have advised against installing a forum on a politically motivated website, like the showcase for a government body, solely because it is going to be labor intensive to moderate the record of the fora.

$14,000. Stable, secure, static pages. Original code. A quarter of a million less than you chose to pay.

Open it for bids before you lose a lot of money.

June 29, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.
klugermann said...

The first version of this story included a sentence, or two, about the approval of the $328,000 for the website. This new version has left all of that out. I agree with bpqd, above, that $328k is a ridiculous amount of money for the City to pay for this service. I am also aware that there are questionable ties to Maycreate, and that the bulk of the work (and money) will go to Nashville. Why, N-FP, are you not focusing more attention on this? People all over the City are facing reductions in basic services, yet the expenditure of $328k for a WEBSITE doesn't seem to raise any alarms. Unbelievable.

June 29, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
SeaMonkey said...

what a freakin' waste! some local news coverage on that.....! typical of government waste.

June 29, 2011 at 4:35 p.m.
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