published Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Chattanooga: Agencies ask city for additional funding


by Cliff Hightower

Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson didn’t like what he was hearing.

One by one, directors and chairmen of local quasi-governmental agencies stepped up to the podium Tuesday morning and asked for one thing — more money.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency was the only one out of eight agencies that said it would ask the City Council for less funding.

“They all have needs,” Benson said. “And they are certainly big needs.”

But council members acknowledged Tuesday they may need to find ways to cut those costs since they already are starting out almost $2.5 million in the hole for the 2011-12 fiscal year budget.

The council is in the process of hearing from all agencies and departments as it prepares for the new fiscal year budget to be presented by Mayor Ron Littlefield in May.

The City Council’s Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee held its third budget work session Tuesday morning, hearing from the quasi-governmental agencies, or those agencies that work fairly closely with the city to provide services.

Each had its own concerns. Tom Dugan, executive director for the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, said his organization needed an additional $600,000 to help pay for the rising cost of fuel.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library said it needed an additional $180,000 to help pay for retirement benefits for employees.

David Turner, chairman of the library board, said it also would be asking for $500,000 from the capital improvement budget to help pay for a new library branch at Eastgate Mall in Brainerd.

Councilman Andraé McGary immediately asked if it could not wait a year.

“Why this year the Brainerd branch?” he asked.

Turner said the library’s priorities were the retirement benefits, the Brainerd branch and a new library in Hixson.

Littlefield also got up to defend the project.

“The entire library system is a priority,” he said. “You can’t be a great city without a great library.”

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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