Chattanooga City Council OKs budget, pay raises

Chattanooga City Council OKs budget, pay raises

June 27th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

The Chattanooga City Council is pictured in this file photo.


• Jack Benson: Yes

• Carol Berz: Yes

• Russell Gilbert: Yes

• Pam Ladd: No

• Andraé McGary: No

• Peter Murphy: No

• Manny Rico: Yes

• Sally Robinson: Yes

• Deborah Scott: No

The Chattanooga City Council narrowly approved a $209 million budget Tuesday night.

Along with it will come no property tax hikes and pay raises for city employees and police officers.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, said after the council meeting that she thought for the most part the city budget talks went fairly fluid.

"I think it ran smoothly because everyone was able to express all their concerns," she said.

Highlights of the budget include a 3 percent pay raise for civilian employees, longevity pay for all workers, the police career ladder fully funded and no property tax increase.

The budget does also include additional money for police and fire pensions, which was raised because of the 2008 stock market collapse and the city now having to pay off deferred costs.

The largest debate for the council over the last month on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget centered around how to divvy out employee salary increases.

Councilwomen Deborah Scott and Pam Ladd had said in the past they would not support the salary increases as proposed and lobbied for smaller payouts in longevity pay or none at all.

Councilmen Andraé McGary and Peter Murphy asked for an across-the-board salary increase to all employees, including fire and police.

Murphy made a motion Tuesday night to amend the budget and include a percentage pay increase for sworn employees as well.

There was some confusion on how exactly Murphy wanted it implemented.

"It would be for all employees, it would not exclude firefighters as the written ordinance does," Murphy said.

Councilman Jack Benson asked if Murphy still wanted the pay raise at 3 percent for those employees. But Murphy responded it would be a 1.5 percent increase unless Benson could shake some money off the "money tree."

"I'm not trying to shake the money tree," Benson responded. "I'm trying to figure out what you're talking about."

Murphy's amendment was defeated 7-2 with only Murphy and McGary voting in favor.

Berz said afterward more budget talks will continue next week.

"We've got to work on the capital budget," she said.

In other news, the City Council voted 6-3 to enter into a rate increase case against Tennessee American Water.

The water company is seeking a 24.9 percent increase to help pay for capital improvements such as pipes, tanks and meters.

City Attorney Mike McMahan told the council that within weeks the city could be going to Nashville to meet with the state and Tennessee American Water to try and iron out an agreement before the Tennessee Regulatory Authority board hears the case around November.

McGary questioned whether the city should wait until after the negotiations end on joining into a rate case.

McGary, Ladd and Scott voted against the resolution.

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