City budget plan starts with deficit

City budget plan starts with deficit

March 7th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

WHAT'S NEXT

The Chattanooga City Council will hold a budget hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday for quasi-governmental agencies to present requests. The public library, the Regional Planning Agency and CARTA are all expected to present.

BY THE NUMBERS

City projections show the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget with a deficit.

• $194.9 million: Projected revenue

• $197.3 million: Projected expenditures

• $2.4 million: Projected deficit

Source: Chattanooga

FIVE-YEAR EXPENSES

Chattanooga expects its operating budget to rise more than $35 million over the next five years. Here are city spending projections:

• 2010-2011: $185 million

• 2011-2012: $197.3 million

• 2012-2013: $203 million

• 2013-2014: $211 million

• 2014-2015: $216.6 million

• 2015-2016: $220.5 million

Source: Chattanooga

A brief snapshot of Chattanooga's projected budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 shows the city in the red by about $2.4 million.

Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison said Friday there's no need to worry about what the cost could be for taxpayers.

"It's just a projection," Madison said.

The financial office presented a five-year snapshot to the City Council on Tuesday that included a projection for the 2011-2012 budget. The projection showed $197.3 million in spending and $194.9 million in revenue. Last year's budget totaled $198.6 million.

It's common this early in the budget process for both spending and revenue projections to be fluid.

Madison said there are future expenditures that need to be placed in the upcoming budget, but she said Mayor Ron Littlefield will "pick and choose" what expenses to include in the spending plan.

"He will present a balanced budget," Madison said.

Future expenses include about $1 million for firefighter pay, $1.4 million for expansion of the Chattanooga Fire Department, $4 million for paving and $500,000 for the police department's career ladder program.

The five-year projection shows an operating budget that grows from $185 million in the current year to $220.5 million in 2015-16.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said Friday those expenses are too far into the future to worry about.

"I think it's too early to say where we are going to be," she said.

The city needs to have a plan for what the budget could look like in coming years, she said, but many factors can affect those plans, she said.

"There's reality and what we want reality to be," she said.

Council Chairman Manny Rico said the projected five-year increase does not concern him.

"Everything goes up," he said.

But the proposed deficit for next year's budget is a bit of a worry, he said, and there's only one thing to do.

"There's no way I'm going to vote for a tax increase," he said. "We're going to have to cut."

Councilman Jack Benson said that since he was elected in 2001, this is the first time he has seen a five-year projection.

He expects growth over the next five years will help pay for the increased expenses.

During Tuesday's meeting, Madison said the city hasn't yet received sales tax collected during December's holiday shopping season. It will be a positive sign if that revenue is up, she said.

"I'm hoping an improved economy will help our sales tax," she said.