Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commissioners passed the 2022 budget on the second and final reading at the Thursday afternoon meeting with a five percent increase to the property tax rate over 2021. No income is expected from the sale of Incline tickets this year because tickets are being sold only at the station in St. Elmo. Last year the town received $59,000 from tickets sold at the top station. And revenue from parking around the Incline could also be impacted.
Expenditures from the general fund are budgeted to be $4,622,157. A large part of that will be for a new fire engine costing $693,500. No other vehicle purchases are planned for 2022. Employees will get a two percent salary increase and the town will add one percent to the 10.51 percent it already pays toward each employee's retirement plan. Also, the cost of medical insurance is expected to increase by 15 percent. This year the budget is fairly revenue neutral, said Mayor Walker Jones.
Money that the town receives from the state of Tennessee from gasoline taxes goes into the State Street Aid Fund with use of it restricted for paving. It is anticipated that Lookout Mountain, Tn. will receive $65,000 in gas taxes this year that will be added to the existing amount. By the end of 2022 the paving fund should total around $337,162. Only limited paving is planned for the coming year mostly for patching. Commissioner of Public Works Frank Schriner, said the town needs to map out a long-term plan for paving. As the amount in that fund increases, it will be saved for future paving projects.
The police department functioned as usual for the last 30 days, said Commissioner of Fire and Police Jim Bentley. However, there was a large house fire on Morrison Street on May 28. The commissioner said that the town’s public works employees were invaluable in assisting the firefighters that day by obtaining equipment and pulling lines, among other things. That allowed the firefighters to concentrate on handling the fire. The two departments working together “were like a well-oiled machine,” said the commissioner. The town appreciates all the help it received from other agencies as well. Lookout Mountain, Ga., Chattanooga, West Brow and Walker County fire departments all arrived to help fight the fire.
It was noted that June 15 was the deadline for getting car decals after which the price increased to $15.
Discussion took place regarding the noise ordinance. Mayor Jones said that use of loud gas-powered yard equipment is allowed between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. On Sunday the hours they can be used are from noon until 6 p.m. A letter will be sent to residents as a reminder of the ordinance and notifying when enforcement will begin. The main thing is to have respect for the neighbors, said the mayor.
Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds David Paschall said the newest improvement to parks is the fence replacement around the playground at The Commons. Commons Camp is now in its third of the seven total weeks it will be held and the number of children participating is over 20 each day, he said. All Star baseball is now in progress. This is the first year that Lookout Mountain, Tn. is playing in the Dizzy Dean league. Ages 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 are all participating in the boys’ tournaments. Soccer registration is on-going.
Lookout Mountain School Principal Ruth White updated the commissioners about what is going on at the school this summer. First, she thanked the police and fire departments because “they’re always there for us.” That allowed the school to hold a field day, which she said was a success. She also thanked the many people who helped with the outdoor fifth grade graduation. She said the weather also cooperated. She also expressed gratitude for the new AC that has been installed at the school. This year there were 162 students and next year there will be 190-193. Last year enrollment was lower due to COVID. Now people are coming back and others with small children are moving here. Teachers are scheduled to return to school on Aug. 5 and students return a week later. Kindergarten will be phased in.
Brooke Pippenger, commissioner of schools, thanked Ms. White and the staff for all they did to make the challenging year work for the children. The commissioner added that parents should check the school’s website for information such as supply lists, summer reading and activities by age group.
The public works employees are continuing to pick up brush, said Commissioner Schriner. They have also started trimming bushes along roadways to improve visibility. Chief Chuck Wells asks all residents to clear vegetation from around fire hydrants. The problem became apparent when on a recent call, the fire department was unable to find a hydrant. It turned out to be behind bushes. If the city clears the vegetation, it will clear it with about a 2-3-foot clearance around the hydrant.
Mayor Jones commented about how well that the different departments in the town work together when needed such as during storms, ice and snow conditions, fire emergencies and throughout COVID. He thanked them all as well as Town Consultant Dwight Montague for his financial expertise and for making the new budget and Belinda Allen and Terrie Payne for their assistance in the process. He said that during the coming year the town will look for the best way to pay for the new fire truck.
There will be a Fourth of July parade this year that will be held on Saturday, July 3. This has become a fun community event, said the mayor. The parade will begin in Georgia near the town hall.
The next meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission is scheduled for July 13 at 5:30 p.m.