published Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

No tax hike for Collegedale this year

Ted Rogers is the City Manager for Collegedale
Ted Rogers is the City Manager for Collegedale
Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

One year after Collegedale commissioners and residents sparred over a property tax increase to save the city’s library, the commission is considering a raise for city employees.

During a long workshop this week, City Manager Ted Rogers and commissioners parsed through the city’s $7 million general fund budget, along with funds for its airport and sewer system.

The budget includes a 1 percent across-the-board cost of labor raise for city employees, which the city has implemented over the last several years. Airport employees — who haven’t seen a raise in the last several years — have been budgeted a 2 percent raise.

“We try to implement very small raises gradually to match rising cost of labor instead of asking for larger raises intermittently,” said Rogers.

Last year, the city leveled a 5 percent property tax increase after taking ownership of its library from Hamilton County. This budget season, Collegedale has no plans to raise its current rate of $1.34 for every $100 of assessed property.

The city has also been spared the grief of looming sewer fee increases and canceled billing services from Tennessee American Water. Besides Chattanooga, Collegedale is the only Hamilton County municipality that operates its own water and wastewater treatment authority and bills its fees through the Eastside Utility District.

Rogers has also requested the commission to up the amount of money it puts into its retention and incentive plan, which grants employees separate raises based on their length of service. About $55,200 is steered towards the plan in the new budget.

While Rogers said “the quickest way to mess up your budget is to overhire,” the commission insisted he look into the possibility of hiring one or two more police officers to help patrol the growing city.

Collegedale has grown 27 percent in 10 years, and now has more than 8,200 residents, according to the 2010 census. In 2000, the city’s population was about 6,500.

The city expects a continued swell as more apartment complexes are built.

“What’s going on downtown [Chattanooga] is eventually going to come more and more this way,” said Mayor John Turner. “We need to be proactive.”

Rogers said he wasn’t sure the city was ready to add the extra expense of more police officers, but said he would look into it.

“The money you’re talking about is at least $80,000,” he said. “I ask that we could wait a year till we analyze it and get some of our other city projects paid for.”

The commission will vote on a first reading of its budget at its June 4 meeting.

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