Tax hike 'pretty firm,' council members say

Tax hike 'pretty firm,' council members say

July 1st, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in Politics Local

There may not be much more room for movement on the 37 cent tax increase the City Council passed, council members said Wednesday.

"Given the vote we had, it's pretty firm," said Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee.

The council voted 6-3 Tuesday night on the 19 percent tax increase, the first possible city tax hike since Sept. 11, 2001. The council will vote again next Tuesday for the second and final reading. If approved, the budget will take effect.

Councilmen Russell Gilbert and Peter Murphy, along with Councilwoman Deborah Scott, voted against the budget.

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell Chattanooga Times Free Press - Protesters gather around the Chattanooga City Council Building before a Chattanooga City Council meeting to vote on a 37 cents per $100 of assessed value tax increase.

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell Chattanooga Times Free Press...

No work sessions or council meetings have been scheduled this week to talk about the budget. Dr. Berz said the first part of Tuesday morning's meeting will be to see if any questions linger about the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget. If there are none, the council will move onto next fiscal year's capital budget, she said.

The new budget includes money to fix pay for the Police Department, one new police academy and return recreation centers to normal operating hours. The budget did not include employee pay raises or money for extra firefighters.

The council also cut almost $1 million from city-supported agencies, reformed future retiree medical benefits and money to city departments.

Mrs. Scott said Wednesday she still planned on trying to find more cuts.

"I'm still interested in reducing the budget," she said. "I don't know who else will be interested in working with me. We'll see."

She proposed Tuesday upping a percentage of the hotel/motel tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, a move that could garner almost $1 million. But that fund can only be used to pay down debt of the 21st Century Waterfront.

She also proposed getting a list of all city assets to see what could potentially be sold.

Council Chairman Manny Rico said there might be some council members who find a penny or two in savings. That could come up as an amendment next week, he said.

"I don't see where they're going to find it," he said. "They went through the budget item by item."

Mr. Murphy said Wednesday he did not have a good feel that anything would change. He said he "doubted any amendments would pass."

"Six to three tells me those who favor the budget have the votes," he said.


WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council will vote Tuesday on the second and final reading of the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget during its 6 p.m. regularly scheduled business meeting. If approved, the ordinance would raise taxes by 37 cents.


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