East Ridge Foregoes Slightly Higher "Certified Tax Rate"; Keeps Same Charge

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The East Ridge City Council on Thursday night voted to forego a slightly-higher "certified property tax rate" and stay with the 2012 tax levy.

Diane Qualls, city finance director, said setting the higher rate would have brought in about $30,000 more for East Ridge.

She said at the higher rate, it would have cost the owner of a $150,000 house about $2 for the year.

The rate stays at $1.4227 per $100 of assessed valuation rather than moving to $1.4295 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County took similar actions after the recent reappraisal - unlike in past years - showed many values down.

The council was without Councilman Denny Manning, who had to undergo two separate heart procedures.

Council members said they hope he will be able to return for a special budget session next Thursday. It will only be held if all five council members can attend.

The council confirmed Freida Wheeler as interim city manager and agreed to pay her $1,000 per month extra. That is the same amount that Eddie Phillips was getting for interim duties. He recently retired.

Two council members balked at approving minutes of the last council meeting in which Mr. Phillips agreed not to read his speech but to have it placed in the minutes. Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and Councilman Marc Gravitt said they took issue with a couple of statements in the letter. One referred to the East Ridge Police Department accreditation and another to the animal shelter being one of the first no kill facilities in the state. Councilman Gravitt said the East Ridge Police Department is not accredited and that the shelter is not a no kill.

Councilman Gravitt proposed a reorganization that would have separate fire chiefs and police chiefs. Mr. Phillips was public safety director and headed both departments. He was also over animal services and codes.

He said he would like some minimum requirements for the chief posts, including at least 15 years of experience.

Councilman Gravitt recommended putting animal control under police and codes under the fire department. 

He also recommended setting up the position of city treasurer, who would be over all city financial matters.

The council will discuss the reorganization later.

Mike Flynn now heads the fire department and Steve Mize, with 30 years of service, is over police.

The council delayed action on a request to open up the wrecker rotation. Mayor Brent Lambert said he wants all the council members present for that discussion.

A grant of over $80,000 was accepted toward setting up a second canoe launch at Camp Jordan Park. Stump Martin, recreation director, said it is possible to paddle two miles from the initial launch.

The city agreed to switch all its phone service to EPB at a monthly cost of around $4,000. Ms. Qualls said the city is paying that amount now, but it is split between EPB, AT&T and Centurylink.

Ms. Wheeler said that makes for a situation where often calls have to be switched from one line to another. She said it would be "much easier on our citizens to have one system."

After the regular meeting, the council interviewed three city manager candidates.

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