published Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Mayor Littlefield sees no easy tax agreement fix


by Cliff Hightower

TARGET DATE

The sales tax agreement expires on May 23, 2011. According to the agreement, budgets would remain in effect until the end of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which is June 30, 2011.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said again Friday he thinks the sales tax agreement between the city and Hamilton County will expire in May with no new pact in place.

"Don't expect it to be something worked out quickly, and perhaps not even quietly," Littlefield said at a Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee meeting.

The sales tax agreement guides distribution of sales taxes collected in the county and its cities to a variety of government and social service agencies.

Littlefield said he expected negotiations with the county and its 10 cities to take months. He held up copies of old newspaper articles showing months of stories and editorials when the original agreement was crafted in the 1960s.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Friday that Littlefield's comments disappointed him.

"I still remain hopeful we can have a temporary fix," he said.

His goal would be to work out a permanent solution, Coppinger said, but the governments should at least have a temporary agreement in place for 2011-12.

City Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who represents the council on the issue, told the SETPAC audience some short-term goals could be set for the next fiscal year, then some long-range goals for the future.

Scott said the city's priority is keeping money flowing to the nonprofit and quasi-governmental agencies funded by the agreement. Those include the Chattanooga-Hamilton County library, planning agency and health department.

Littlefield said whatever happens with the sales tax agreement, those agencies will be funded.

"The necessary services for this community will go forward," he said. "It has to."

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