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Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's proposed 2020 budget passed its first reading late Tuesday.

After five weeks of budget education sessions, the Chattanooga City Council voted unanimously to approve the nearly $270 million budget, which emphasizes roadwork and homelessness initiatives in the city.

In what he refers to as an "extremely tight" budget, Berke says the city prioritized results-based budgeting centered on community feedback.

"In capital and in operational, I think we did about as much as we could, being as creative as we could," he said in May when the budget was announced. "There is stuff that we wanted to do, particularly in capital, that's just getting pushed off until later years."

Some of the significant items that made it into the budget include an across-the-board 2.5% pay increase for all city employees (elected officials are excluded) and a $2.5 million incentive for the Volkswagen plant to facilitate around 1,000 new jobs.

"We had to work really hard to prioritize the things that we think we can do within this fiscally restrained budget," Berke said. "This budget was about continuing to fund the things we're already doing that we think could continue to have good results for people."

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Mayor Andy Berke is shown in this 2018 staff file photo.

As quickly as council approved the budget in the meeting, council members indicated that they were properly informed after around 17 hours of presentations from department heads and financial experts in the city over the last few weeks during Tuesday's final session.

"The flow was incredibly good and [Councilwoman and Budget and Finance Committee Chair Carol Berz] controlled the situation, making sure everyone was well-informed to make the decision we're making," Council Chairman Erskine Oglesby said.

After a public hearing last week and Tuesday's first reading, the budget will go before the council for a second and final reading Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m.

If the budget passes the second reading, it will be formally adopted by the council.

To view the entire budget, visit budget.chattanooga.gov.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.

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