Council member Ben Bradford, speaking at the council’s regular monthly meeting Sept. 10, said he “still had a few questions” about the budget, even though it is complete and balanced.
The city’s budget year begins Oct. 1.
The city scheduled a workshop for Monday night, Sept. 17, to discuss the proposed budget.
The proposed budget, a total of $23,737,464, is based on an unchanged property tax (millage) rate of 2.99 mills. The budget shows a decrease in $20,000 from what the same millage rate produced in the 2011 budget.
There are several increases in fees in the proposed budget, including sewer and gas services as well as a revision in golf membership fees.
Council member Andy Arnold, who has been on the board for 11 years, said that while council members regretted the fee increases, they are long overdue.
“We could've been having this conversation six or seven years ago,” Arnold said, “but we chose to stay the course and wait. We combed through it (the budget) better than we ever have before and it was just time to make some changes.”
City manager Frank Etheridge said that, even with the increases, $1.3 million was slashed from the general fund portion of the budget, dropping it from $6.9 million to $5.6 million, meaning many city departments received quite a bit less than what they requested.
“As you can see in reviewing the budget,” Etheridge said,” there is no excessive spending proposed, and increases are generally focused on addressing deferred maintenance and purchase of operating equipment.”
In other business at LaFayette city council’s Sept. 10 meeting:
• Revisions to an existing alcohol ordinance were approved regarding boundaries. Previously the distance between establishments selling or serving alcohol and other entities such as churches or schools was 300 feet between property lines. As it stands now, the new boundaries will be considered based on distance between actual buildings. Changes were implemented so a restaurant new to the Mars Theater district, which is requesting a beer license, will be within the margins of maintaining a distance from a nearby church.
• A decision to pass a request by resident and business owner Lynn Hight to add a drive-through window to her establishment was tabled. Hight's intention is to open a new package store in 30 days. A motion was made to have the city attorney draft some necessary changes requiring mandatory lighting and security cameras. Hight said she had no problem complying and the issue will be re-approached at the next meeting.
• Approval was made to rezone the northern undeveloped 0.93 acres of property at 3 Probasco Street (near the Head Start building) from B1 zoning to I1 zoning. Syntec has requested to use this section as part of an expansion plan for a new entrance and employee parking.
• Fourteen other parcels of property will be rezoned from I2 to B1 and B2, upon recommendation of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Officials reasoned the changes would support the expansion of the downtown business district to the west, which would benefit growth of the city and provide a more enticing gateway to the city for visitors. Properties involved include portions of NorthChattanooga, West Villanow, Patton and Main streets, but the changes leave the railroad property zoned I1 to support the local depot activites.
• Approval was passed to amend an ordinance which would permit bow hunting within the city limits of LaFayette, with specific limitations. Hunting may only occur with written permission from the land owner and can only be done on plots of five acres or more. Hunters must comply with all state hunting regulations and are not allowed to shoot within 50 yards of a street.
• Wardlaw Street, due to its location between the public safety complex and Joe Stock Park, will now be considered a “No thru traffic” zone. Officials say the potential for accidental injury to pedestrians, especially children, has increased due to the location of the park restrooms, which are in the fire station building across the street. According to chief Benji Clift, signs and crosswalks will be installed and police monitoring will begin as of Oct. 1.
• Sharon Cunningham, Joe Moore and Melinda Spier were appointed to fill vacancies on the Downtown Development Authority board, and Mike Lovelady was reappointed to another 6 year term.
• Halloween, as well as all corresponding activities for “Scare on the Square,” were officially set to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 31.