Vote expected on Chattanooga city budget next week

Vote expected on Chattanooga city budget next week

June 22nd, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Council member Sally Robinson

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council will vote on the first reading of the city's budget ordinance next Tuesday during its regularly scheduled business meeting. The council will then vote on the second reading on Tuesday, July 12.

The City Council will vote next week on a $201 million budget for the city.

But that budget will not include almost $20 million for once jointly-funded agencies. Instead council members plan to discuss more in-depth how those agencies should be funded.

"We can't have the budget held hostage," said Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget and Finance Committee.

The City Council has been meeting for almost a month discussing the budget. Most of the talk has been centered around how to fund several nonprofit and quasi-governmental agencies once covered under the city and county's 45-year-old sales tax agreement.

That agreement has expired, and the city has chosen to take the $10.5 million in sales tax it once handed over to the county and use it to fund some agencies.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson handed council members a document Tuesday during a budget workshop that helped restore funding to several mental health providers who had been cut from the proposed budget a few weeks ago.

The money to help fund these agencies came from the council agreeing not to fund a government TV channel through WTCI-Channel 45.

Robinson told council members "we need to pass a budget" and said she knows the amounts did not add up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in requests agencies did turn in.

"I believe everyone will agree half is better than none," she said.

But other council members said they still have questions concerning the amounts of money given to some agencies. Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she questioned appropriations to some of the quasi-governmental bodies. Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said there were questions about how much funding should be given to Finley Stadium and Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events.

"It's our philosophy they should be funded through the hotel-motel tax," he said.

The council plans to ask questions of the administration over the next few weeks about agencies and then vote on a budget with the agencies attached to it by the second reading on July 12.

"We'd probably have that solidified by the 12th," Johnson said.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.