Contentious meeting leads to talks of metro government

Contentious meeting leads to talks of metro government

May 3rd, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

A board member for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council told Mayor Ron Littlefield that talks between the city and Hamilton County over the expiring sales tax agreement are so hostile, a deal appears unlikely.

"I don't know how you can work out anything when you're looking like enemies," Dr. Ronald Blankenbaker said.

Littlefield said he had talked to Hamilton County officials two years ago about the end of the sales tax agreement, which expires in May, and he had "gotten nowhere."

With his voice rising, Littlefield pointed at Blankenbaker and said the county offered no alternatives except to ask the city to extend the agreement.

KEY POINTS

Mayor Ron Littlefield broached the following issues during a presentation to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department Monday:

  • Hamilton County should pursue its own charter;

  • County residents need to come to terms on some type of political structure to end double taxation of city residents

  • The county needs to start paying for its state-mandated services

  • The county should be able to afford fully funding the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department

  • If the county does not want to build the Homeless Health Care Center, hand it over to the city and it will

Littlefield said he is willing to sit down and talk, but the city needs a fairer shake than being "double taxed" through the sales tax agreement, a 1966 deal that stipulates how the city and county handle jointly funded agencies such as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

"There's a little bit of frustration here, quite frankly," Littlefield said.

The agreement is set to expire May 23, and the city has said it does not plan to renew it. The end of the agreement will mean about $10.5 million in sales tax revenue will return to city coffers after being given to the county for years.

Littlefield addressed the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council Monday in a meeting that at times became contentious and centered on the mayor calling for the county to establish its own charter and begin talks of a city/county metropolitan government.

Littlefield then told the council that the 45-year-old sales tax agreement needs to end because it is unfair to city residents who pay double taxes for certain services such as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

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