published Monday, September 20th, 2010

City Council keeps eye on stormwater plan budget


by Cliff Hightower

Almost five months after the city lowered nonresidential rates for stormwater fees, some City Council members say they’re keeping a watchful eye on the program’s budget.

“I want to look at each year to see if conditions have changed,” said Councilman Jack Benson.

The nonresidential rate for stormwater, or water quality, fees is scheduled to rise automatically — from $6.15 a month per equivalent residential unit to $7.25 cents a month — when property tax bills start going out in October.

The hike is part of Mayor Ron Littlefield’s plan to ramp up the stormwater fee to the same as the residential rate within five years.

The City Council hiked the residential rate in April to $115.20 a year from $24 or $36. Nonresidential rates are based on the size of the facility compared to a home. Nonresidential users include businesses, churches and institutions such as schools.

Benson said he’s not sure the fee needs to be raised just yet.

“That’s the intent right now,” he said. “Nothing has been approved that’s irreversible.”

Daisy Madison, the city’s chief financial officer, said stormwater fees brought in $11.9 million last year and are predicted to bring in about $13.9 million this year. That’s an increase of almost 19 percent.

Madison said the revenue is enough to hire more city employees to run the program, test streams and help build and maintain water drainage ditches.

“There’s lots of projects out there,” she said. “I don’t think they [Department of Public Works] will have problems spending it.”

Councilwoman Pam Ladd said the council needs to keep monitoring the fee.

“As far as I know, it’s adequate enough for the projects we have this year,” she said.

Federal and state regulators have cited problems with the city’s water quality and sewer programs, mostly dealing with administrative procedures and testing.

The city is facing a possible joint directive from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation over the problems. Local leaders are worried about what they might be told to do.

“We still haven’t gotten a final word,” Councilwoman Carol Berz said. “It could be more is needed, it could be less. ... Nothing is set in stone.”

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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slr3 said...

Interesting that councilmembers LADD , BENSON and BERZ are quoted in this article. These are three of the five council members who voted for a 19% increase in our property taxes. The other two are ROBINSON and RICO. When Berz says "it could be more that's need , it could be less" which way do you think she will vote?? These five should be recalled , impeached or whatever it takes to remove them from public service. They don't represent Chattanooga taxpayers.

September 20, 2010 at 4:52 a.m.
dunk7676 said...

i have a suggestion,,,,, why dont you tax us on the air we breath.bet you havent thought of that yet....

September 20, 2010 at 9:08 a.m.
fairmon said...

Has any council member considered how effective the current staff's time is utilized? Limited observations indicate they have significant non-productive time. Has any member considered more cost effective options for the work? Do they understand and accept the reason for Chattanooga's fees being much higher than other cities? Why Knoxville has none while ours are the second only to Memphis?

A brief review: o A 19% storm water fee increase o A 5.5% sewer tax increase o A 19% property tax rate increase (.37 per 1000 evaluation) o An EPB rate increase o A $600,000 annual increase in inspection and permit fees o Don't include the school boards granting themselves a retroactive pension and future health care cost since the impact of their inappropriate greedy behavior is not known.

The annual property tax amount has increased over time at the old rate per thousand and will continue increasing but at the new rate.

Our elected leaders brag about our growing and prosperous city and say these modest increases are so they can help us.

Excuse the high number of unemployed, those with reduced incomes and those on fixed incomes for protesting and not agreeing these increases are modest. Shame on them and the over 15,000 angry, misinformed, narrow minded on the fringe folks that expressed their opposition. The mayor and judge certainly quieted the latter group of malcontents.

Our leaders should now be able to continue with business as usual and keep finding ways to "help us" and develop more creative ways for us to pay for it.

Be proud of and support our leaders. We elected them and criticizing them may reflect on us and cast doubt on our ability to use good judgement in selecting them.

September 20, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
whatever said...

i have a suggestion,,,,, why dont you tax us on the air we breath.bet you havent thought of that yet....

That's something the worst polluters already have to pay. Mostly industry, but arguably including the smokers.

Why Knoxville has none while ours are the second only to Memphis?

This is a bad question. I would ask how much Knoxville spends, and how they pay for it, and what results they get from their spending.

September 20, 2010 at 10:43 a.m.
harrystatel said...

"City Council keeps eye on stormwater plan budget"

Taxpayers best keep their eyes on the City Council.

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 20, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.
fairmon said...

What does Knoxville spend and what do they get for it?

Your question would be better asked by members of the Chattanooga council to those in the know in Knoxville.

I prefer my "bad" question as stated to the Chattanooga council although I received no response to an email asking that specific question.

Knoxville's annual budget is $20 million less than Chattanooga's although they have a larger population and lower tax rates.

A visit to Knoxville and discussions with residents show equal or better service while the growth and improvements are obvious and observable.

I don't think they have anyone assigned to "sustainability" nor do they have an arts, crafts and sculptures administrative position and staff. Don't ask me how they function without these critical positions. I guess they are just lucky.

Perhaps our council should visit Knoxville to see for themselves how they do it. The mayor has stated he wants to exceed Knoxville's population via annexation. Perhaps there are other appropriate comparisons with Knoxville as well.

It may be time for city residents to petition the county to take us in and totally dissolve city government. In the bargain they get a pharmacy and won't have to build one. I understand county residents objection to moving under the full of holes city unbrella.

September 20, 2010 at 7:57 p.m.
whatever said...

Your question would be better asked by members of the Chattanooga council to those in the know in Knoxville.

Well, certainly it would behoove the city council to benchmark against other cities such as Knoxville, but you're the one here, so I'm passing the suggestion on to you.

It may be time for city residents to petition the county to take us in and totally dissolve city government.

I suggest you petition Ridgeside for annexation instead.

September 20, 2010 at 9:06 p.m.
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