Updated at 5:38 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, with more information.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's proposed fiscal year 2020 budget prioritizes roadwork and homelessness in the city, emphasizing upkeep of existing goals and resources over the implementation of new ones.
In what he called an "extremely tight" budget, the city's operating budget is up just 1.05% from 2019's anticipated revenue, requiring the city to tighten its belt in some areas, like deferred maintenance to city buildings and other capital projects.
"In capital and in operational, I think we did about as much as we could, being as creative as we could," he said. "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."
Consistent with past years, Berke said strengthening the city's homelessness initiative is a top priority and will receive more than $1.3 million in funding, up 87% from $731,644 in 2019, and 196% from $462,000 FY18. The funds include more than $750,000 for personnel, including hiring seven new employees, and more than $600,000 distributed among Family Promise, Room at the Inn, Goodwill Furniture Bank and the Homelessness Coalition.
"We're really proud of the homelessness piece, and it's going to make a huge difference in the lives of people in our city," Berke said. "Not just for those individuals that are homeless but also for neighborhoods and downtown."
Another significant segment is a "monstrous amount of street work," which accounts for around $28 million of the budget, a little more than $8 million of which is from the city.
The city has been approved for about $20 million through FEMA to repair roads affected by heavy rains earlier this year. To receive the funding, the city has to pay a 12.5% match and will take on the full expense of the projects on the front end, with later reimbursement from FEMA.
FEMA funds will be used for several projects, the biggest of which are repairs to Elder Mountain Road, Lake Resort Drive and Hamill Road.
The Third and Fourth street corridor project is also fully funded in the new budget, with 80% of the project funded federally and 20% put in by the city.
"The changes that are set to happen are among the biggest to our infrastructure at least since the changes at the waterfront," Berke said. "It sets the table for a tremendous amount of medical development for a health and wellness district, for more employment and employers, and it's a transformative project."
The mayor's total $687.7 million capital and operations budget was presented to the city council for the first time Tuesday afternoon at the regularly scheduled agenda session by Chief Operations Officer Maura Sullivan and Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison.
"This is a budget focused on delivering results for Chattanooga, based entirely on the priorities and needs of the people that have been articulated to us through our process that is designed for complete transparency, accountability, and public engagement," Sullivan said. "The investments that we call for here maintain the excellent level of services that Chattanoogans expect and sustain our progress while extending more opportunities for prosperity, safety and livability to more corners of our city."
The council did not address the budget after the presentation but will now have four budget education sessions — May 21, May 28, June 4 and June 11, each from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and June 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. — during which they will be able to ask questions after having had a week to read the budget.
A public hearing for the budget will be at the June 11 council meeting at 6 p.m. The council will vote on the budget on June 18 and June 25 at the 6 p.m. council meetings.
The budget schedule is subject to modification by the council.
Contact staff writer Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.