The East Ridge City Council passed a new budget on first reading, and agreed to do business with CARTA to provide special bus service to the city, Thursday during its regular meeting.
The $13.7 million General Fund budget is revenue neutral based on a property tax rate of 1.33 per $100 on the most recent appraisal by Hamilton County. The city “rolled back” the previous rate of 1.42 as required by state law to not gain a windfall.
City Manager Scott Miller advised the council that the city has an existing fund balance of $5.2 million.
There will be a public hearing on Aug. 10 at 5:30 p.m. prior to the second reading and presumably the adoption of the fiscal budget for 2017-18.
There was no debate by the council regarding the budget. Councilman Jacky Cagle said that the City of Chattanooga may not “roll back” its tax rate and praised Miller for devising a budget that allowed East Ridge to do so.
Councilman Brian Williams said he appreciated the hard work that Miller had put in on the budget.
City officials have been working with CARTA for about four years on plans to provide bus service to the city, Mayor Brent Lambert said. Earlier this week CARTA representative met with city officials to propose a plan that would provide something called “Para-Transit” service. This service would provide for senior citizens and the disabled to travel point-to-point anywhere CARTA serves.
The fair would cost $5 for a round trip with the city providing a $15 per trip subsidy. The service would begin on Sept. 1, officials said. The cost is estimated at $47,000 to the city in the next fiscal year.
In addition, the council approved moving forward with a letter of intent to pursue a federal grant (Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, CMAQ for short) that would shoulder 80 percent of the $260,000 price tag to provide combined bus service to East Ridge. This service would allow for two buses that would provide point-to-point service anywhere in East Ridge. It would also provide for buses that connect with Eastgate so riders could transfer and travel throughout the CARTA service area.
If the city is successful in getting the three-year CMAQ grant the actual cost of the service to the city would be about $50,000 a year, Miller said.
“This could be a big bang for the buck,” Miller said.
The council approved on second reading an ordinance that would allow the city to recoup costs of mowing high grass in yards throughout the city. Aside from the cost to mow, the city would assess a $100 administrative fee on the first mowing/clean-up. That would increase to $250 on a second offense in a calendar year and $500 on a third.
Miller said the administrative fee would get the attention of residents who do nothing to comply with city codes relative to keeping lawns mowed.
However, the city received no bids in an effort to hire area lawn services to address the hundreds of residents who have been notified that their lawns need cutting. Officials said one problem may be workers compensation regulations that may hold the city liable if a contracted worker is injured while working. The council moved to re-bid for the work.
The council approved on first reading the rezoning of four properties. All the rezoning measures were approved by the city’s Planning Commission, said Kenny Custer, the city’s Chief Building Official. There was no opposition voiced against any of the rezonings.
The council approved on first reading an amendment to the city’s sign ordinance. The amendment limits placement of off-premise billboards to no less then 1,000 feet between such signs on either side of a right-of-way.