Chattanooga budget boosts families, infrastructure

Chattanooga budget boosts families, infrastructure

May 16th, 2018 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

In this Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, staff file photo, Daisy Madison, Chattanooga's chief financial auditor, speaks with council members during a city council meeting at City Hall in Chattanooga.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday got its first look at a proposed budget that boosts families and neighborhoods with investments in affordable housing, early learning, public safety and infrastructure.

The presentation at the council's agenda session gave just the highlights of the $262 million general fund budget, which is nearly 3.4 percent above the current year's budget and maintains the current tax rate of $2.227 per $100 of assessed value.

Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget

Spending by budget category:

Safer Streets: $135.1 million (51.6 percent)

Stronger Neighborhoods: $41.5 million (15.8 percent)

High Performing Government: $35.2 million (13.5 percent)

Smarter Students, Stronger Families: $30.6 million (11.7 percent)

Growing Economy: $19.5 million (7.4 percent)

›¬†The 2019 budget would put just more than half the $262 million operating budget in the Safer Streets category.

Source: City of Chattanooga

Chattanooga Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan.

Chattanooga Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan and Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison ran through the proposed spending using the city's Budgeting for Outcomes process: Safer Streets; Stronger Neighborhoods; High Performing Government; Smarter Students; Stronger Families, and Growing Economy.

The 2019 budget would put just more than half the $262 million operating budget, or $135 million, in the Safer Streets category, which runs the gamut from police and fire services to the Family Justice Center and McKamey Animal Center.

Mayor Andy Berke's budget would add 14 firefighters to the city payroll to help maintain Chattanooga's ISO Class 1 rating, the highest possible, and pay for phase two of a three-part plan to get each firefighter a second set of turnout gear. That's in addition to supporting various family, victim and survivor services at the Family Justice Center and re-entry programs for ex-offenders, among other programs.

The mayor has proposed the city's first housing trust fund as part of $41.5 million spent in the Stronger Neighborhoods category. The money would be used to help protect neighborhood affordability. The category also includes money for his new Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as a record $6 million for street paving and improvements.

Berke also follows through on the promise in his state of the city speech last month to put more money into Baby University for new parents and to develop 1,000 high-quality early learning slots for young children. The $31 million Smarter Students, Stronger Families category includes new technology and projects for Youth and Family Development Centers and a program to help high school students get summer jobs with the Public Works Department.

The $35 million set aside for High Performing Government includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for civilian employees and money for a comprehensive study to see that city pay rates match the market. The city also will invest in training through the Government Alliance on Race and Equity toward achieving racial equity and advancement opportunities for all workers.

Berke's budget puts $21 million into the Growing Economy category, which includes workforce development programs, economic development help for local businesses and helping advance the Innovation District. Berke already has called for reusing some city-owned properties to grow the Innovation District.

Council members didn't have a chance to ask questions at Tuesday's short briefing, but they will dig much deeper into the budget in scheduled briefings over the next four weeks.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 6 p.m. on June 12 in the council chambers.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.


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