Berke Budget Passes First of Two Votes - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Berke Budget Passes First of Two Votes

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The Chattanooga City Council found only one area to enact change in Mayor Andy Berke's $216 million budget proposal.

"We've added some to the paving budget," said District 2 Councilman Jerry Mitchell. "There are several council people that are very adamant that our constituents want better streets."

The extra $412,000 bumps the total for paving up to an even $3 million and was collected by trimming other programs in the plan.

The second of two budget hearings wrapped up on Tuesday, and most on the council knew early-on they were ready to approve the measure. District 4 Councilman Larry Grohn was the only vote in the negative on first reading.

"This budget places city government in areas that government should not assume the responsibility," he explained. "I'm not willing to vote for expenditures without details and I'm not willing to vote for a document that just says, 'just vote for it and we'll take care of the rest.' What's the rush?"

Some of the programs Councilman Grohn hinted at may be topics of discussion when the public gets to comment before the second vote, next week.

"There have been a lot of questions about 'baby college,' said Councilman Mitchell, "several questions about trying to help ex-offenders. So, mostly, questions about funding agencies."

A group of city workers showed up to argue for more then the 1½% bump in pay contained in this plan. Council members pleaded for more time to prepare a more comprehensive solution rather than a temporary fix that might not be fair, in the long run.

"More than just a pay raise, across-the-board, District 6 Councilwoman Carol Berz said, we need to look at the total pay plan. It needs to be, in some cases, revamped. And then there's the issue of equity; getting everybody on a level playing field according to where they are on the pay plan. Just to give somebody an across-the-board raise just compounds the problem and we have not taken time, we have not taken time to really see where equity is best met. I and my colleagues are very much committed to doing that."

Speaking for the Berke administration, City Deputy Chief Operating Officer Brent Goldberg added, "This budget does include a 1½% pay increase for employees, city-wide, an that's the same increase that we gave last year. And we are committed to looking at some of the disparities that they've talked about, and, overall, through the human resources department, we do want to evaluate this and study it to see what changes might need to be made."

Public comment is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17. If no serious issues arise, the council will likely conduct their final vote. If approved, the plan will go into practice on July 1.

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