Chattanooga mayor's budget includes 221 vacancies, pay freeze to offset $8 million in lost revenue from COVID-19

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke

Mayor Andy Berke proposed on Tuesday a Chattanooga city budget with more than $8 million in cuts, a hiring freeze and other precautions to help the city weather the still unknown economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the proposed $255 million fiscal year 2021 operating budget, the mayor's office introduces no new taxes, fees or layoffs, and plans hiring and pay freezes to brace the city for the impact - and the uncertainty of federal funding -for both the virus and the EF3 tornado that ripped through the city last month.

"Our finances have been challenged and will be challenged," Berke said, noting that hard times for the city reflect hard times for citizens. "At the same time, our demand for our services is increasing."

Berke told the Times Free Press that his approach to budgeting in the midst of the pandemic - which will cause a projected $8.4