published Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Chattanooga budget is a mishmash of changes


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2014 Projected revenue: $212.5 million 2013 estimated reveune: $211.9 million property taxes: 2014(proposed): $123 million 2013(projected): $122 million 2012: $121 million 2011: $119 million Breakout1 2014 Projected revenue: $212.5 million 2013 estimated reveune: $211.9 million property taxes: 2014(proposed): $123 million 2013(projected): $122 million 2012: $121 million 2011: $119 million

The challenge in balancing the city budget is that every headline-grabbing service or new investment must be matched with a cut somewhere else. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s proposed budget makes a number of nips, tucks and outright amputations to keep the money going out equal to the money coming in.

For instance, while the city will increase its contribution to the Allied Arts Council Fund 21 percent to $275,000, it’s slashing aid to the Homeless Health Care Center by half, to just $13,300, documents show. Nature lovers will notice the sidewalks are cleaner and the flowers are brighter at the Tennessee River Park thanks to a $25,500 bump in the operating budget and a reccomended capital expenditure of half a million.

But $12,720 in aid to the Alexian Brothers Senior Neighbors, along with $67,500 to the River City Co. and $75,000 to the Homeless Coalition were eliminated in the proposed budget. All three groups saw 100 percent of their city funding eliminated.

CARTA will see a 2 percent increase in its subsidy equal to $95,440, while the Heritage Hall Fund will have to do without $12,407 of its total $70,300 city subsidy, according to the budget. Inside city government, Chattanooga’s 2,700 employees will see a number of changes.

Berke proposed cutting all of the money — $15,000 — allocated for drug and alcohol testing of city employees. And the budget for recreational supplies will be cut in half to $52,000. Cockroaches and rats had better watch out, because Berke is raising the city’s spending on its exterminating service by 16 percent to $21,000.

Yet the mayor wants to cut the cleaning supply budget by 33 percent, or $48,000. The paint supply budget shrinks by half. The amount of money spent on tree maintenance and repair, long a staple of the Scenic City’s shaded boulevards, is also shrinking 84 percent to just $26,000. Meanwhile, the general landscaping fund will increase an eye-popping 9,500 percent to $190,368. Another $49,900 is slated for “grounds,” an increase of 860 percent over the 2013 budget, documents show.

The mayor proposed a 97 percent cut to Chattanooga’s $381,857 cellular phone service budget. Those still using old-fashioned pagers needn’t worry, however. Berke increased the pager rental fund by 13 percent to $1,707. And while the police may be getting a break on their take-home cars from the Berke administration, they also will have less ammo if Berke’s $20,000 cut — a reduction of 16.6 percent — to that expense is approved.

The ammo budget is expected to be around $100,000 this year. That could mean that the city’s new $1.3 million shooting range could be much quieter than originally anticipated.

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