A presentation of the proposed, fiscal year 2021 budget was made to the East Ridge city council Thursday night. City Manager Chris Dorsey said with the economy in recession the various departments were careful with their budget requests. Revenue growth is projected to be flat from 2020, and there will be increased costs to the city this year. Recycling will now have to be paid for and there is a three percent increase in health insurance costs for city employees.
There will be no cost of living raises for employees although Mr. Dorsey said if things change after the second quarter, that may be revisited.
The city’s share of the state sales tax will also be lower due to the effects from closing the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. The major source of income for East Ridge this year will come from property taxes, said the city manager, and the $15,755,978.00 budget has been created with no property tax increase. A budget workshop was scheduled tentatively for Friday, June 5, at 3 p.m.
A budget amendment was made for the 2020 budget to adjust it for unexpected expenses and revenue throughout the year that was not originally included.
The council authorized the application and acceptance of two grants from the state of Tennessee. The Tennessee Cares Grant to benefit the East Ridge library would provide $20,000 with no matching funds required from the city. If received, the money would be used to purchase four hot spots through May 31, 2021, and four Chromebooks. Together, the Chromebooks and hot spots would allow Internet service at no charge, to library patrons for the length of their circulation. The grant would also be used to purchase an Adobe Photoshop license.
A resolution was also passed to approve the application for the Governor of Tennessee’s local support grant. The amount of $493,967 would be restricted for use to permitted spending categories associated with infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
By request from the developer, Dynamic East Ridge, LLC, the council approved a resolution that amended the development agreement relating to a project in the Border Region retail development district which is expected to be a Marriot Hotel. The amendment addresses delays in construction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment will give the developer a six-month extension for completion which would give the company until June 30, 2021 to finish construction.
Two appointments were made to the East Ridge Industrial Development Board for six-year terms. The city-wide appointment is Casey Tuggle and Danny Lance has been reappointed to serve another term.
City Manager Dorsey reported that brush and storm debris that was created when tornadoes moved through the city Easter night is going well. The additional equipment that the city bought for the work has made a difference, he said. The hardest hit areas and largest piles are being given priority, he said. He is beginning discussions with FEMA and TEMA for completing paperwork needed to receive assistance from these agencies for storm clean-up.
Police Chief Stan Allen announced a blood drive organized by the police department. It will take place next Wednesday from noon until 6 p.m. The bus will be parked outside of the police department and all employees and residents are welcome to donate.
Mayor Brian Williams would like to thank Kroger, Cherokee Health and the Hamilton County Health Department for providing free testing for the coronavirus that was held May 20-22 and again on May 27-28.
So far, East Ridge has had 61.8 percent of participation in the 2020 census, said Council member Aundie Witt. This is higher than statewide participation of 60.3 percent, she said.
Plans are to open up city hall again. The city’s safety officer has been charged with making sure everything is in place for opening the building to the public on Monday.