District 1 City Councilman Chip Henderson is awaiting a response from the Mayor’s Office on his alternative to proposed major water quality fee increases. (Photo: Staff)

District 1 City Councilman Chip Henderson suggested an alternative to water quality fee increases proposed in the 2018-2019 fiscal year city budget on Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s budget education session, Henderson proposed the mayor’s office take $2 million from its reserves to replace the extra funding the increased fees would have produced this year and put off approving a new tax rate until officials have a chance to conduct more research.

Henderson said he expects the mayor’s office to return with an answer to his proposal next week. He said if Mayor Andy Berke rejects his proposal, he will vote “no” on the budget.

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However, if Mayor Andy Berke approves of the idea, Henderson said he hopes the next step would be a study to determine the most effective way to fund public works without hurting taxpayers.

Last week, Henderson suggested lowering property tax rates to offset the increase in water quality fees.

The proposed fee increase, set to rise by 10 percent per year for the next five years, was protested during city council’s city budget public hearing last week.

Another public hearing specifically addressing the tax increase happened during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled city council meeting. During the hearing, several residents and community group representatives explained why they thought the increase would negatively affect the community.

Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors President Geoff Ramsey said that the initial proposal for the increase at the stormwater regulations board was rushed and left stakeholders with little time to provide their opinion.

“How the city handled the proposed fee increase has left the realtors more questions than answers, such as ‘Does the city want affordable development and housing in Chattanooga?'” Ramsey said during the hearing.

Other citizens wanted to delay a vote on the increase until a proper review of the increase’s effects could be done.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is a graduate of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she received a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in political science. Alina has over three years of journalism experience including time spent with CNN and 2nd & Church, a magazine based in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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