South Pittsburg hits hard times financially - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

South Pittsburg hits hard times financially

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The City of South Pittsburg, located in Marion County, has hit hard times financially.

State officials have ordered it to pay back a debt caused by the previous administration, and that's on top of money problems caused by the historic flash flooding that ravaged the town in July.

Tennessee's Comptroller Office has ordered South Pittsburg to pay around $800,000 back to the utility company, as a result of the previous administration transferring money meant for the utility company's road repair fund, to the city's general fund.

"I'm not going to let this town, and my board is not going to let this town go bankrupt," Mayor Jane Dawkins said.

The saying "when it rains it pours," is hitting home for the city of South Pittsburg. This summer started with the state comptroller's office ordering the city to pay back $802,890 in funds the previous administration illegally transferred.

"Then came the flood," Mayor Dawkins said.

Record breaking flash floods in July left a long list of costly repairs behind, to things like roads, city vehicles and streams.

"We're just in a situation where all these things came up that we've got to pay this money back and our revenue stream was not enough to meet our obligations," City Administrator Sammy Burrows said.

Grants will help with flood repairs, but they all require matches, meaning the city needs to put up about half a million dollars to get the ones they've been awarded.. money that's clearly not in the budget. The state wants the city to pay back that $802,890 within five years.
 
"That's where the comptroller came in on the illegal transfer of that money, so we've got to pay it back to the utility company," Burrows said.

To make that happen, commissioners voted to nearly double the property tax $0.99 per $100 of assessed property value. For the average $85,000 home in South Pittsburg, that means about a $100 dollars more a year. The bill comes next month. Many residents aren't happy about it.

"That's a little steep and it will be for most of the people in this area. It's not a rich town," resident Raymond Sisco said.

"It's a blow but it's going to be necessary given our financial status that we inherited," Mayor Dawkins said.

Former South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian pleaded guilty in federal court a few days ago to charges of illegal gambling out of his personal businesses, during the same time he was mayor.

Mayor Dawkins stresses there's no evidence he stole or misused the city's funds, instead says he spent money on city needs, but that was not allowed to be used in that way.

She says she's trying to boost morale around town by promoting community togetherness through several upcoming events.

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