The first reading of the budget and setting the tax rate for East Ridge for fiscal year 2023-3024 is scheduled to be on the agenda of the next council meeting on June 8. At the Thursday night council meeting, City Manager Scott Miller gave a preview for what it contains. He said the city’s revenue picture is healthy. The budget plans for several new employees, which includes six additional firefighters and a training officer for the fire department and a recreation director for the parks and recreation department. The millage rate will be the same as it currently is and the level of services remains the same, he said. Mayor Brian Williams emphasized that there will be no tax increase. The second and final reading to adopt the new budget will be June 22.
The city’s rainy day fund, which is meant to be sufficient for covering four months of expenses, was reduced to $4 million during the COVID pandemic. Councilman Jacky Cagle, seeing that amount as deficient, suggested raising it to $6 million or $7 million. The city manager said the expenses are going up substantially so raising the fund to $6 million or $7 million would be in order. At the next meeting the council will consider a resolution for the increase.
Two resolutions were passed at the meeting. The mayor was authorized to sign a contract with TDOT to provide mowing services for the I-75 Exit 1 interchange during 2023-2024. The state will pay East Ridge $9,800 for mowing six times, although the city does it more than that. The work is done on a reimbursement basis.
Another resolution to purchase a generator for the computer server room was approved for the amount of $81,892. The cost includes associated equipment and installation. This will allow the city’s 10 servers to be relocated to a more secure location. The generator will be capable of powering the servers, the IT room, lights and a mini-split AC unit for the room, which will provide continued operations in the event of a power outage.
The city manager’s report included a reminder that “The Last Call for Alcohol,” that was implemented during the pandemic, will expire July 1. This allowed customers to buy alcohol to go at restaurants.
He also reported on the progress of the multi-modal work on Ringgold Road. It is still moving forward, he said. The sub-contractor for Chattanooga Gas, which is laying new gas lines at the site as the other work is being done, will soon be finished after which Tally Construction can continue its construction.
Mayor Brian Williams said the next clean-up day in East Ridge will be on June 24. The deadline for volunteers to sign up will be June 2. Forms can be found on the city’s website. He also said that the city’s annual Memorial Day ceremony along with the American Legion will be at 1 p.m. in front of Pioneer Frontier Park.
Bridgett Raper, communications strategist for the Small Cities Coalition of Hamilton County, gave the council an update on bills passed or proposed during the last legislative session. Some of importance to small cities in Tennessee include a de-annexation bill. The small cities coalition drafted a position statement sharing concerns about the bill. She said that those recommendations and suggested solutions were included in the final bill that was passed.
There has been a proposal to eliminate business taxes that she said would be detrimental to the small cities because local government resources would be reduced. And there is also a proposal to put a cap on property tax increases. She said this is gaining traction. And a freeze was put on real property tax for those earning $60,000 or less or people 65 and older who meet certain conditions. There are also caps being put on county property taxes for the same segment of people.