Chattanooga expects budget increase next year

Chattanooga expects budget increase next year

March 3rd, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Daisy Madison, CFO for the city of Chattanooga

Chattanooga expects its budget to jump by about $3 million next fiscal year to accommodate the rising cost of gas, pensions and medical expenses.

The city released its annual budget requests, which show that, with no increases at all, the budget would be $206 million in the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, 2013. Total budget requests from departments and agencies totaled $215 million.

"It's not a final budget," said Daisy Madison, the city's chief financial officer.

The budget will be closer to $205 million, Madison said. The city's current budget is about $202 million. Revenue growth is expected to be about $3 million.

A budget of $215 million is just too much, she said.

"I don't see that we're going to find $13 million in additional revenue," she said.

Budget request documents show the city expects an increase of about $1.5 million in pension and health costs. Some notable increases include a boost from $2 million to $5 million in the city's paving program and adding firefighters at the new fire station on Cummings Highway.

Records show the budget also includes an increase of $6 million for debt payment.

The budget from the Public Works Department includes a 2 percent increase for construction costs and a 28 percent increase for paint, along with a $50,000 increase in gasoline - all because of rising costs for petroleum-based products.

Department heads were told to present three scenarios in their budget requests: One that would contain a few additional costs, one that strictly maintains current level of services and one with a 2 percent reduction.

BY THE NUMBERS


• $215 million: Budget if all requests are made

• $206 million: Budget that maintains all services at this year's level

• $202 million: Current budget

• $198 million: Budget if the city cut 2 percent from all departments

Source: Chattanooga

For the most part, the city will be looking at a budget that strictly maintains current levels of services, Madison said.

Mayor Ron Littlefield's budget will be released sometime in May. At that time, the City Council will receive and review their copies, discuss the fiscal plan and vote to approve. The budget must be approved before the start of the fiscal year.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said that over the next few weeks the council plans to hold a series of meetings with city agency and department heads to hear why they need the money they are requesting.

Most of what she has seen in the budget requests is not surprising, but cuts must be made.

"We're going to have to adjust somewhere," she said. "There's overage."

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she thinks cuts should be made on an item-by-item basis.

"My feeling on that is you just can't do that across the board for every department," she said.

She said she had not yet had time to study the budget requests but thought most of its numbers reflect increasing costs on necessary items and ongoing programs.

"I don't believe there's a lot of add-ons," she said.