Citizens Voice Concerns as Signal Mountain Faces Large Deficit

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WDEF)- The Signal Mountain Town Council received an earful from residents about reports that potential cuts that could be coming to the town’s fire department.

Late last week, the Signal Mountain Firefighters Association posted on social media that claiming that the town was going to cut their fire department in half and laying off several firefighters, and that the council would vote on this proposal.

The council did not vote on any new budget tonight as a new one has not yet been drafted, and the council said they are in the beginning of the budgeting process.

However, data presented to the town suggested that major changes will have to made, but citizens hope that does not involve the fire department.

One citizen said, “I just don’t understand. Your priorities are just a little askew.”

Another citizen said, “I’ve had two tax increases since that seven years. I see things happening around here, I’m really not convinced we know where we are.”

Signal Mountain Councilperson Andrew Gardener presented a series of data from two recent MTAS studies, which analyzes salaries in municipal governments.

He says the town is facing a $1.5 million dollar deficit on a budget of only nine million dollars.

Gardener said, “My belief is, we need a long term plan to get these things to the right size.”

Some of the data he presented included that the Signal Mountain Fire Department is far bigger compared to most departments that serve similar sized communities.

The Fire Department according to Gardner has 27 full time employees, while many other towns their size rely on volunteer or part time employees.

The budget of the Fire Department last year was almost $2.5 million, which Gardener says is 30 percent of the town’s total budget.

He says the town must make a tough decision during their budgeting process of how much of the budget the fire department should take up.

Gardener said, “This is not something they get to control though. It’s something that the people in these seats control, and control now.”

Signal Mountain mayor Charles Poss said he wants to avoid a repeat of past tax increases to cover budget shortfalls.

Mayor Poss said, “You guys sitting out there, a lot of you don’t want your taxes raised. And you don’t want the first reaction of the town council when presented with some sort of deficit to be, let’s raise your taxes.”

Nick: Gardener said that in order to cover $1.5 million dollars, there would have to be a property tax hike of 25%, which would raise Signal Mountain’s property taxes to match the city of Chattanooga.

However some speakers said they would be willing to do what was necessary to keep the Fire Department as is.

A citizen said, “I am willing to have my taxes looked at and raised like others that have shared that here. I think that it jumps to conclusions to say that people don’t want their taxes raised, I know that’s like a visceral reaction for some people but, I think they want their taxes raised responsibly, and I think the Fire Department is responsible spending.”

The Town Council said that they are looking for ways to keep service as good as possible while making up that budget deficit.

Other concerns residents brought up included response times if the Fire Department shrank, their insurance costs, and the long term viability of their community.

This budgeting process is just starting and will take months to complete.

The Signal Mountain Firefighter’s Association has not responded to tonight’s meeting as of now, and some firefighters that News 12 briefly spoke to did not want to comment at this time.


A large crowd gathering inside of the Signal Mountain Town Hall as citizens voiced their concerns about the upcoming budget.

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