The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday will consider a budget that does not raise property taxes but could cut funding for the Chamber of Commerce as well as the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
It would include contracts with economic development consultants Ray Evans and Steve Jones and a 1 percent cost-of-living pay raise for city employees.
Under the budget proposed by Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, the property tax rate would stay at $2.39 per $100 of assessed value.
In a recent guest column, the Chamber said it recognizes the city’s efforts to save public money, and it has made a proposal to City Council for the “formation of a better and less expensive partnership for the future.” The Chamber has proposed a steering committee that would include two Chamber representatives, the city manager, and a City Council member. The committee would decide how to best carry out economic development strategies and target businesses and industries for the community, said Chamber President Parker Hardy and Board Chair Stephen Whitson.
“All of the city funds that are contributed as part of this agreement would be matched by the Chamber,” Hardy and Whitson said. “The Chamber resources will provide the labor from the Chamber staff as well as the other ‘soft costs.’ The city’s funds would be used exclusively for market studies, travel, and other ‘hard costs’ as the committee approves. Both the city and the Chamber would provide as-needed resources such as technical assistance in order to further economic development.
“In order words, the city leadership and Chamber’s leadership, which consists of private businesses in the community, would work together to prioritize and lead the business development activities for our community.”
Hardy and Whitson said the Chamber’s proposal does not include any city funding to subsidize its day-to-day operations. They said the Chamber is primarily funded by the financial support of private companies through membership dues or investments, partnerships, sponsorships, and other non-public funding sources.
Monday’s meeting is the first of two votes on the budget, which applies to the fiscal year that starts July 1. The second and final vote, or reading, will be Tuesday, May 28.
The Oak Ridge Schools budget could be approved during a special Oak Ridge Board of Education meeting on May 23. That budget could then be presented to city officials at the May 28 City Council meeting.
Under Watson’s proposal, the city’s general fund budget would be roughly $20 million, and the transfer to Oak Ridge Schools would remain at the current level of about $13.9 million.
The Monday night meeting agenda is available here.