Council searches for more funding

Council searches for more funding

September 13th, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

City-supported agencies already reeling from cuts could see their budgets carved even further this week as the City Council takes another look at spending.

"They are getting re-examined," said Councilwoman Pam Ladd. "By some of us."

The city took a knife to several of its city-supported agencies in the 2009-10 budget, cutting some as much as 100 percent. But as the council continues to look for further funding to help pay for city employee take-home cars, the supported agencies could get whacked even further, council members said.

"About the only place you can go that is discretionary is what you're giving away," Ms. Ladd said.

On Friday, the city found $200,000 for police take-home cars in the traffic enforcement camera budget, money from traffic fines generated by cameras placed around Chattanooga.

But City Council members said Friday they would come back at their Tuesday meeting and find money from other sources. Council members said a portion of that money, if not all of it, could come from the budgets for supported agencies.

But the agencies already create a mixed picture. Four of 36 agencies requesting money for this fiscal year received an increase in funding, while five agencies that applied for money got none at all, city records show.

The four agencies that saw increases were the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, the Heritage Hall Fund and the Enterprise South Maglev fund, records show.

During a Budget, Personnel and Finance Committee meeting Friday, Council Chairman Jack Benson proposed that library funding could be cut down to the same level as what the county budgeted this year. The city is offering the library $68,000 more than the county.

"Now we're giving more money than the county," he said. "Here we go, putting in more money than the county."

Mayor Ron Littlefield said there were times in the past when the city has given more on the library so there could be a "better library."

"Again and again, the county hasn't stepped up and given 50/50 on the library," he said.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Curtis Adams said Friday that the county has always stepped up to the plate to fund the library, both this year and in the past. This year's $2.64 million from the county should prove that, he said.

"I think that's a very good contribution, $2.64 million is nothing to sneeze at," he said.

David Clapp, executive director of the library, said Friday that if funding is cut, it could inhibit some improvements to the library, which was slapped hard earlier this year in a study that said it was in bad shape and needed to set clearer goals and do more with the money it has.

"We'll make the best with what we have," he said.

One agency that has seen all its funding cut this year is the Senior Neighbors program by Alexian Brothers. Dawn Weber, executive director of Senior Neighbors, told the council Friday that there are consequences to the cuts.

"We cut staff last year, and we'll have to cut staff this year if this stays in effect," she said.

Daisy Madison, the city's chief financial officer, said the city can't be the only source of funding for these agencies.

"You hope these organizations are getting a whole lot more money from other areas than us," she said.

Council members said they would gather again Tuesday morning and talk more about how and if some of these agencies should be funded.

"We might decide agencies have been cut enough and we can't get anymore," Ms. Ladd said.