City May Dip Into Rainy Day Fund To Delay Water Quality Fee Rise 1 Year; Speakers Hit Fee Rise

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

City Council members may dip into the city's Rainy Day Fund to hold off a planned sharp rise in the water quality fee by a year.

Councilman Chip Henderson suggested taking $2 million from the general reserve and designating it for water quality projects. He said the state MTAS group as well as the city auditor said that could be done.

He said the city could use the year's time to come up with "a more equitable way to assess the fee."

Councilman Henderson also said there needs to be a continual focus on how to achieve efficiencies in the water quality program to trim costs and mitigate the need for the fee hike.

He said of the funds transfer, "This is not something we would want to do every year, but it is OK as a one-time measure."

He indicated it could be coupled with a lowering of the property tax rate so as not to shift the water quality burden to the property owners.

There was also discussion of whether those assessed the fee could have the option of paying it monthly instead of being hit with a large one-time bill along with the property tax bill.

Councilman Henderson said he wanted to hear which method citizens would favor.

At a public hearing on Tuesday night, a number of speakers were critical of the water quality fee increase.

Richard Beeland, executive director of the Home Builders Association, asked the council to remove it from the overall budget and give it special consideration.

Sandy Kurtz of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance, said the plan was crafted behind closed doors and approved by the Stormwater Board with very little public notice.

She said all streams in the city are still classified as impaired. She said the streams are only tested every five years.

Geoff Ramsey, president of the Chattanooga Board of Realtors, said the increase would affect the ability to have affordable homes in the city.

He said the plan was introduced to the public only three days before it first went before the Stormwater Board. He said it was "a done deal" with little public input.

David Hamill recommended that the city get some of its water quality revenue from a fee charged to drivers. He said about 20 percent of the impervious area is in roadways.


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