The Mayor’s Office recently responded to a budget request made by City Council members. (Photo: Staff)

Mayor Andy Berke’s office doesn’t want to delay a decision about increasing water quality fees as District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson requested.

“Public Works has a five-year plan to invest in neighborhoods, reduce flooding and increase water quality,” Berke’s Communications Director Richel Albright said through an email. “Dipping into the city’s reserves to fund only one year of a multiyear plan doesn’t solve this problem, it just kicks the can down the road.”

The mayor’s 2018-2019 budget plan includes a proposed fee increase or 10 percent per year for the next five years.

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Henderson asked that — instead of approving that hike — 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.

He proposed this alternative with the hopes that delaying a decision on the fee increases would give the city time to research how to avoid hurting taxpayers while still funding the department.

Albright said that interrupting Public Works’ plan will only delay an inevitable resolution.

But Henderson plans to vote “no” on the budget if the city doesn’t accept this proposal.

District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd said that he does support Henderson’s idea, but is hesitant to vote “no” unless his constituents tell him this is a deal-breaker for them.

We have to find out a way to have a more stable situation where we don’t hurt funding for the city, but we also pass savings onto the people,” Byrd said. “[Before I] say no to the entire budget, I need to do more talking.”

Many citizens and council people are worried how a fixed price jump could affect some residents who already struggle to pay their property taxes.

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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