published Friday, October 11th, 2013

East Ridge uses reserves to pay city manager

East Ridge City Council members agreed last month not to budget for a city manager until next year. They decided to take the money they would have spent on the position and apply it toward other things.

Then, two weeks later, they voted to go ahead and offer Andrew Hyatt the city manager job anyway. He will start on Oct. 21.

But the city needs money to pay Hyatt from then until the end of the year -- about $17,000 over 10 weeks. So, at Thursday night's meeting, the council voted to take $30,000 out of the East Ridge reserve fund to account for the city manager position. In addition to Hyatt's salary, $4,000 will be used to cover his moving expenses.

The amendment passed 4-0. City Councilman Larry Sewell missed the meeting because he was sick.

Before voting in favor of the amendment, Mayor Brent Lambert said he wished the city did not have to dip into the reserve fund, which has about $5.5 million in it. In principle, Lambert said, the council should reserve that money for one-time, emergency expenses.

"In a sense, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said before the meeting.

Assuming Hyatt is still on the job, the councilmen will have to decide how to pay his salary again next year. They can either pull $30,000 out of the reserve fund again, or they can adjust the budget.

If they adjust the budget, Lambert said, they will have to remove something they have added in this year's budget, raise taxes or hope to see an increase in money generated through sales tax -- an event that may happen, since Garden Ridge opened a store in East Ridge.

During its Sept. 19 meeting, council members voted to tweak the city's budget. They decided not to budget for a city manager until January. Instead, they took that money and paid the salary of a part-time clerk. They also increased city employees' Christmas bonuses.

In past years, East Ridge's 121 full-time employees got a $200 bonus in December, and the city's 23 part-time employees got $100. This year, full-time employees will get $500 and part-time employees will get $200.

In all, this bonus bump will cost the city $38,600.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com

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