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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / A city of Chattanooga Public Works employee operates a brush truck to remove debris on Davidson Road in East Brainerd on Oct. 13, 2021.

Beginning on Tuesday, the city of Chattanooga will enter into the final phase of its budgeting process, with education sessions for City Council members this week and a final vote scheduled for mid-June.

The city has a proposed operating budget of $350 million. Here are five things to know about the budget and the process playing out in the next two months:

1. OK, but first, will my taxes go up?

No. The city brings in revenue through property taxes, which generate nearly 60% of the city's revenue, along with sales taxes and other taxes.

The proposed budget will not raise property taxes on residents. The tax rate will remain at $2.25 per $100 of assessed value.

The city estimates it will collect $188 million in local property taxes in the upcoming fiscal year, an increase from the projected $184 million gathered in fiscal 2022 and $137 million gathered in fiscal 2017.

 

2. Two dollars of every $5 in the city's budget is going to public safety

Mayor Tim Kelly's proposed operating budget will send $85.4 million to the Chattanooga Police Department and $59.9 million to the Chattanooga Fire Department, totaling nearly 42% of the total operating budget.

The next highest total going to a department is $126 million going to a general government fund, accounting for 36% of the total budget and going to things such as information technology and public libraries.

During the previous fiscal year, the city sent $83.4 million to the police department. This year's proposed budget represents a 2.45% increase to the department, largely from more money going to the police's community services, bike patrol, investigative department and training and recruiting services.

In the early months of his administration, Kelly told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that defunding police departments "doesn't work."

"I think it's very unhelpful language anyway," Kelly said in the July 21 interview. "I do think we're quite serious about looking at alternate models of crisis response."

 

3. What is the city prioritizing in this budget?

Kelly presented his "One Chattanooga" plan May 5 as part of the annual State of the City ceremony. The plan focuses on seven priorities for the city — access to early learning, economic vitality for the Black community, affordable housing, improving infrastructure, making the city a competitive regional economy, improving public health and making government efficient and effective.

Included in the proposed capital budget is Kelly's $33 million of seed money for a $100 million affordable housing initiative over the next five years, which involves nonprofit organizations, banks and other groups in a public-private partnership.

The cost of living is pricing out many local families, with housing costs driving a lot of the concern. A United Ways of Tennessee report released last month found that 76% of children in south and central Chattanooga live in households that cannot afford the local cost of living.

City workers would receive a 3% cost-of-living adjustment as part of the budget, raising the minimum wage for employees to $15.45 an hour.

 

4. Road quality and infrastructure is a top concern

As a candidate for city mayor, Kelly made a point of emphasizing the poor quality of local roads. Kelly filled in a pothole using a shovel and wheelbarrow in a frequently aired campaign advertisement.

The proposed budget would send $131 million to local infrastructure, such as roads and the sewer system, using capital funds that are separate from the operating budget. Some $10 million is going to repaving roads, and another $11 million is going to bridges, sidewalks and road construction.

Local infrastructure was a top concern during a virtual public input session in January on city priorities.

In the city's budget presentation, the administration announced it will hire two full-time employees to focus on pothole repair.

Kelly is also hoping to invest $97 million in sewer projects and $9.8 million on water quality projects.

 

5. There is still time to make your voice heard

On Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., council members will learn about the proposed operating budget. On May 24, the council will hear from city officials on the capital budget.

These meetings are designed to allow for council members to learn about each department and specific needs. A public input session is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 31. Each speaker will have two minutes to address the council.

All meetings are at the John P. Franklin Sr. City Council Building, 1000 Lindsay St.

The council will hold its first reading on the proposed budget June 7, with a final vote scheduled for June 14.

More information about the city's budget and the upcoming process can be found by visiting budget.chattanooga.gov.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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