A proposal for amending the 2013 budget was approved at the meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. commission meeting Tuesday night. Town Consultant Dwight Montague said this move was needed because under state law funds cannot be expended that are not appropriated. Several issues in the past month have caused expenses to exceed what was originally budgeted.
A tax rate of $1.65 per $100 of appraised value of real estate had been approved by the commission for 2013. Because the average assessed values of property declined by 1.85 percent when the county did re-appraisals this year, an increase of three cents was added to last year’s rate in order to keep the property taxes revenue neutral. Because of a clerical error, this year’s taxes were calculated on last year’s rate which was $1.62. Since it would be a major task to try and correct the bills that have already been sent, the city will receive $30,000 less than was budgeted. Because of this, the citizens of the town have received a 1.85 percent tax break this year. Mr. Montague said that in 2014 the city may want to correct the error and recover the three cents that will be lost in 2013.
Hamilton County Department of Education recently approved a three percent salary increase and a one percent bonus across the board for teachers. Because the town of Lookout Mountain, Tn. and the PTO supply funding for eight additional teachers at Lookout Mountain Elementary School, they must also pay the salary and bonus increases which amount to $10,907. The town had money in the budget for technology upgrades for the school. That money will now be used instead for salary increases, so the town’s budget will remain unchanged.
Repairing deck tiles on city hall was estimated to cost $4,000 but that has increased to $8,000 since the work began. And, a totally new item is being added to the budget. In order to care for stray or lost dogs, the three pens that the city currently uses needed an upgrade to make them more humanely livable. This will be done by building concrete pads for the pens so that they can be sanitized, and by providing canvas covers and igloos for shelter. Most of the dogs taken to the police department when found loose belong to mountain residents and their owners are found quickly - usually requiring a stay of no longer than 48 hours. The $5,000 cost to upgrade the pens was approved in the amended budget.
Before reading the police and fire department statistics for the month of September prepared by Chief Randy Bowden, Commissioner Ernie Minges was happy to report zero burglaries due to the fine job done by the police on both the Tennessee and Georgia sides of the mountain. There were 147 police calls, 4,748 miles patrolled, 34 burglar alarms, all false, eight assist citizen calls, 16 calls to 911, one auto accident, 35 traffic stops and two thefts. Theft of property charges against six people were made, which goes back to the break-ins last month. In Tennessee there were 15 medical calls, and two in Georgia. Four fire alarms were answered with all being false.
As usual, said Mr. Minges, it pays to be safe. He suggested walking with cell phones, calling the police department when going out of town, for pedestrians and drivers of vehicles to watch out for each other, and for removing mountain decals if a vehicle is sold.
The police commissioner also reported that the department had its first “special response training” recently and that 13 people had graduated. These classes will be offered on a continuing basis.
Don Stinnett, commissioner of schools, said that the carnival had been a huge success despite the rain delay. Oct. 11 is the end of the first quarter of the school year and report cards will be sent out on Oct. 18. Fall break is from Oct. 21-25. He also wanted to remind the town that the school’s fundraiser “Night out for Lookout” will be Feb. 28, 2014. He said community participation is vital at this very festive event, which is an auction and dinner held to benefit the school.
“Here comes fall,” said Commissioner of Public Works Walker Jones. The leaf machine is currently being readied for use since leaves are already beginning to accumulate, he said. The 25 tons of salt ordered but not used last year is still available for the winter. By the next meeting, he said the sidewalks should be well on their way or completed.
In the absence of Joe Hailey, commissioner of parks and playgrounds, Mr. Montague reported that the tennis courts project is running slower than projected. The engineering portion was expected to be finished now but it is not moving along as fast as Mr. Hailey had estimated.
Mayor Carol Mutter recognized Vanessa Cullars for graciously and skillfully operating Twiggs for many years, and encouraging commercial growth in the town. A resolution was presented to Ms. Cullars signed by the commissioners, recognizing her career and contributions. In addition to running the shop, she has served in many community and school groups and the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club. Yessick’s Collection and Design Center has now opened in that location.
Ansley Moses, the town WWTA coordinator, gave a report on sewer billing. The WWTA operates the sewer system for all the surrounding communities except the city of Chattanooga. System wide, it was noted that there are about 9,000 delinquent accounts out of a total of 26,000. Mr. Moses wanted to notify residents that a10 percent penalty will be added to all past due sewer bills. Also, beginning in October, shutting off water to delinquent sewer customers will begin. If shutoff occurs, there will be a $30 delinquent administrative charge. Payments must be received by the due date to avoid penalties. Past due accounts will receive a phone call after 45 days of delinquency and termination after 60 days. Inspection of the sewer lines and work to repair them will most likely take place in 2015 on Lookout Mountain, said Mr. Moses.