published Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Chattanooga City Hall mum on budget details


by Cliff Hightower
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Chattanooga officials are working on the city budget, which is slated to be released in a matter of weeks, but they're not dropping any hints about what it may contain.

"We're still working with the mayor's office," said Freida Kitchen, director of management and budget analysis.

The mayor's budget is scheduled to be unveiled May 8 or May 15, Kitchen said. Departmental requests total $215 million, records show, but city officials have said they expect the budget to come in around $205 million.

Requests included nine suggested new positions for Parks and Recreation, a boost from $2 million to $5 million for road paving and adding firefighters at a new fire station on Cummings Highway.

Those numbers still are up in the air, Kitchen said.

"We're tweaking those numbers," she said.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said this week she is waiting to take a look at those numbers. There are some budget requests she is concerned about, she said.

"I'm disappointed in staffing levels," Ladd said. "There's a couple of departments out there that I do have questions about on salaries and definitely positions."

She named the additional Parks and Recreation jobs as warranting further scrutiny and perhaps an additional position with the Department of Education, Arts & Culture.

But she said she won't know if those positions warrant more study until the budget is released.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, led a series of informational budget sessions over the last month. She said she has learned through those sessions money is tight.

But she doesn't expect to see anything beyond what is necessary, she said.

"I don't expect any surprises," Berz said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/hightowerTFP.

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