Chattanooga City Council OKs budget

Chattanooga City Council OKs budget

June 29th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council will meet again 2 p.m. July 12 to discuss funding for agencies. The council will decide how to appropriate about $20 million to the agencies and after approval it will become part of the 2011-12 budget.

The Chattanooga City Council approved a $201 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year Tuesday night, even as discussion continues about how to fund several quasi-governmental and social service agencies.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee, said Tuesday she felt the agency funding would be brought to a head when the council meets again.

"It will be able to be voted on in two weeks," she said.

The council voted 8-0 Tuesday on the second and final reading of the city's budget. Councilman AndraƩ McGary was not present at the meeting.

The budget includes no new property tax increase and has increased by almost $20 million this year. Part of that additional funding comes from the city gaining about $10 million in sales-tax money once diverted to the county as part of the 45-year-old sales tax agreement. That agreement expired last month.

City officials have said they would use all of the $10 million to fund agencies.

Agency funding was intentionally left out of the budget passed Tuesday night. The council will address agency spending in a special-called meeting on Tuesday, July 12 and should divvy out how much money agencies will get.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said after the council meeting he felt he presented a balanced budget and he wants to make sure most of the agencies get funded, including those within the mental health services realm.

"The city will be doing more than its share," Littlefield said.

Several residents came to council members after the meeting pleading for them to fund mental health service agencies, such as the Fortwood Center and Joe Johnson Mental Health.

Chris Brooks, organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, told council members that "people's lives will be destroyed if these agencies aren't funded."

"Chattanooga has the means, and I believe Chattanooga has the heart," he said.

The budget passed this year with limited controversy compared to last year when the mayor proposed a 62-cent tax increase. That increase was ultimately cut to a 37-cent property tax increase.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said after the meeting she felt pleased with the budget. It included some small increases for employee compensation, infrastructure improvements and parks and recreation, she said.

She said she saw no drama from this year's budget.

"Other than people wanting to fund the agencies, I didn't hear a lot from my constituents," she said.