published Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Chattanooga capital budget vote due Tuesday


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Daisy Madison, Chattanooga's chief financial officer
    Photo by David Banks

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BY THE NUMBERS

$95 million: Capital budget

$50.5 million: Governmental funds

44.5 million: Enterprise funds

Source: Chattanooga

A $95 million Chattanooga capital budget will begin addressing such projects as fixing the 21st Century Waterfront and an upcoming decree from federal and state agencies concerning the city's sewer system.

More than $38 million is being set aside for sewer fixes, records show, while another $8 million will pay to repair the erosion and cracking along the hard edge of the riverfront.

Daisy Madison, the city's chief financial officer, said it is not a standard year with these large, pricey projects, but "if you pull out the extraordinary expenditures, it's similar to last year's budget."

Last year's capital budget came in at $57 million.

But Councilwoman Deborah Scott is concerned that the whole capital budget is too large. She questions whether there are ways to drive down the $8 million cost of the 21st Century Waterfront repair.

"I do wonder if it's the highest priority in the budget," she said.

The council plans to discuss and vote on the capital budget Tuesday.

The budget has $50.5 million in government funded projects from sources such as bonds, taxes, general fund dollars and state and federal grants. Enterprise funds, from dedicated user fees such as the stormwater and sewer fees, will pay for another $44.5 million in projects.

Both those stormwater and sewer fees are expected to be raised this year.

City records show the city is receiving almost $22 million in federal and state grants. Madison said $7 million of that does not require matching funds from the city.

The Public Works Department has a proposed $31 million budget that includes $22 million in grants.

The budget also includes $1.7 million for paving, which Public Works would handle. Public Works Administrator Steve Leach said he knows the council will want to discuss paving Tuesday, but the department has many needs and the city has only so much money.

"We have to live with what we've got," he said.

Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder has said the city should fix the riverfront edge completely, so the city doesn't have to come back in the future to do more work. He said there were 45 requests in the budget, with eight selected for funding.

"There's millions of dollars in requests," he said.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she is comfortable with the project selections at this point, but noted a built-in safety measure for the city -- all capital budgets from city departments must come before the council individually.

"You get another opportunity to vote it up or down," she said.

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