Chattanooga City Council approves capital budget

Chattanooga City Council approves capital budget

July 27th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

The Chattanooga city council meets in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

$57.2 million: Total amount of capital budget

$20.2 million: Self-sustaining enterprise funds included in the budget

$11.4 million: Total bonds to be issued to pay for capital projects over the next two years

Source: City of Chattanooga


WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council will hold its last meeting on the capital budget during a special-called business and finance meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The City Council approved the 2011-12 fiscal year capital budget 7-1 Tuesday night on first reading, but questions persist on some projects on which the city could spend money.

Council members questioned point-blankly whether money should be spent on construction of a building for the Chattanooga History Museum.

"I feel like we're investing in something the city doesn't own," Councilwoman Sally Robinson said. "It's not our real estate."

Councilwoman Deborah Scott voted no, while Councilman AndraƩ McGary left the room when the vote was taken.

About $37 million of the capital budget goes to infrastructure and city improvement projects. Another $20 million of the capital budget comes from self-sustaining funds like water quality and sewer fees.

Questions arose about some projects within the budget including the museum and a police station on 11th Street. Mayor Ron Littlefield led a 10-minute slide presentation on the police station, but no questions arose during a special budget and finance committee meeting about that project.

Instead, council members asked about the museum and spending $500,000 on the project - half this year and half next. Scott said no money was spent in the early '90s on the aquarium but the city was looking at giving money for the museum.

"We did spend public money," Littlefield replied.

He said all the money the city spent helped with improvements on the plaza around the aquarium.

Robinson said that is where the problem lies. She said the city should be putting money forward for things such as the plaza and public improvement projects. But not for private investment.

"I think the investment in our infrastructure is the key," she said.

Many council members said they felt the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau should be the entity fronting the money.

City administrators said they would ask the bureau and also look at a plan to possibly match half.

In other news:

* The council voted 8-1 to allocate $75,000 to a yet-to-be-named entity that could help multicultural and minority businesses within the community.

* Littlefield told council members the city was preparing an ordinance to change the library board to a city-only appointed board. Currently, 15 members serve on the board, appointed by the city and the county.

The city took complete control of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library three months ago.

Littlefield said he would seek an ordinance abolishing county appointees and in the near future look at state approval to grow the seven-member city library board to 11 members.