published Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Restructuring delays Chattanooga budget


by Cliff Hightower
Mayor Andy Berke
Mayor Andy Berke
BUDGET TIMELINE

Chattanooga city government released a tentative schedule for the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. It is:

July 30: Present to council

Aug. 6: Begin City Council committee review

Aug. 20: First reading

Aug. 27: Second reading

Source: Chattanooga

The Chattanooga budget is going to be delayed for two months because of Mayor Andy Berke's restructuring of city government and the shuffling of money for new departments.

"Basically, we took a meaningful comprehensive approach to reorient city government around key priorities, and so we want to take an equally meaningful comprehensive approach to a budget that will focus on those key priorities," said Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Berke.

A timeline provided to the Chattanooga City Council shows the administration plans to deliver the 2013-14 fiscal year budget by July 30. The council will vote on an interim budget tonight to extend the current budget for three months past the June 30 deadline, the day the fiscal year officially ends.

Stone said because of the restructuring of government, there is "no doubt" the administration will not be able to have a budget in hand by June 30. Since Berke took office, he has created three new departments and axed four previous departments.

Stone did not say whether next fiscal year's budget would be less, more or the same as last year's $206 million spending blueprint.

Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, said it was anticipated that the administration would ask for an interim budget. She said it is standard that a continuing budget be approved because the city is never able to meet the June 30 deadline.

Historically, the mayor presents the budget to the council during the end of May, and then the council studies the budget and makes recommendations for changes.

Berz said in past years, the council usually had ended up approving the budget within a week or two after June 30.

But she said the council realized there would be a lot of changes because of the government restructure.

The city will be able to handle the interim budget by using a percentage-based formula to calculate how much it will cost to keep each department running, she said.

"There should be no problems whatsoever," she said.

Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem acknowledged that the creation of the new Economic & Community Development, Youth & Family Development and Transportation departments creates a different budget than in years past. He also said it makes any other previous budget null and void.

"I would expect this budget to not resemble any other budget in any other way," he said.

He said he expected an interim budget to come before the council as the administration started from scratch to prepare the new one.

"It makes sense to do it so government doesn't shut down," he said.

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