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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Dr. Carol Berz welcomes participants to the conference. The Chattanooga Mayor's Statewide Women's Policy Conference was held at the Westin on February 7, 2020.

The Chattanooga City Council has postponed the second vote for the proposed 2021-22 budget because of a lack of proper public notice.

The council postponed the vote, initially scheduled for Tuesday, to take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Carol Berz said during the council's agenda session Tuesday that a clerical error in the city's notification process meant the final budget vote needed to be held later than planned, to allow for a new public hearing.

"When we began our budget hearings, we began with the employee compensation plan, the very first thing we did," Berz said. "We talked about taxes ... and we talked about all sorts of details. This stuff was in the paper, it was on the internet. All the information was put forward."

But the Tennessee Board of Equalization received a complaint about the city's process.

"We had our public hearing, and people commented on the taxes — the comments weren't really pro or con taxes, but what they were going to be used for — but it was clear that everybody knew what was going on about taxes, and employee wages, and how much we needed to increase wages, and it was just a very good plan," Berz said. "What happened was when we sent out the language, we didn't use the exact language that's in the [Tennessee Code]."

According to Berz, though the city met the requirements of proper notification, by not expressly notifying the public that the budget included a tax rate change, the budget could be rejected by the comptroller of the treasury.

On Sept. 28, the city council will do an online hearing from 3-5 p.m. for those wishing to participate remotely and an in-person hearing at 6 p.m.

Last week, the council approved the budget — including a $30 million compensation increase plan for public employees, funded by projected increases in property tax revenue — unanimously.

(Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly seeks to increase city pay with $30 million tax revenue hike)

The proposed budget includes a property tax rate of $2.25 per $100 in a home's assessed value, which the city estimates will provide a $30 million increase in revenue.

The new rate is lower than the previous city rate, but higher than the rate that would be required to keep the city from receiving an increase in property tax revenue as property values go up.

"I want to thank [the] Chattanooga City Council for approving our budget unanimously," Mayor Tim Kelly tweeted the night of the first vote. "With this important step forward, our city can deliver quality and responsive services and steward our resources responsibly — all while paying our first responders and essential workers fairly."

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor

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