East Ridge Council takes up details on $19 million budget

East Ridge Council takes up details on $19 million budget

April 26th, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert

East Ridge City Council members have barely conferred publicly with each other about the $16 million budget they plan to vote on during its first reading tonight.

But Mayor Brent Lambert said that doesn't necessarily mean it will escape public scrutiny.

"This meeting really opens the window to get in the nitty-gritty of the budget, and that will show us if we need to take pause on anything," said Lambert. "I have questions myself."

Last year, the council tabled the budget vote and elected to hold a workshop after disagreeing about a tax increase during initial budget readings.

No property tax hike is in the 2013 budget, though a change in how the city collects sanitation fees could mean residents will see that fee tacked onto their property tax bills instead of their water bills.

The city is changing its billing procedures after Tennessee American Water decided to halt its sewer billing service for East Ridge.

The city also is moving to bill its own property taxes instead of relying on Hamilton County for the task, saving $100,000, City Manager Tim Gobble said.

To deal with the new billing and collection processes, the council will also be voting on whether to create a new finance department. Gobble said a new department will not necessarily mean new hires but staff restructuring.

There is no across-the-board employee raise in the proposed budget, but there is a proposal to cover a larger share of health insurance premiums.

The city also is considering a measure that will shift pay ranges to benefit employees in the lower pay brackets.

"Technically, it allows for a salary adjustment, not exactly a percent raise. The ordinance raises the minimum wage for employees in East Ridge, and next year's budget will reflect that," Gobble said.