One Chattanooga budget includes promised funding for public safety, roads and bridges, affordable housing and new parks, while optimizing city service delivery and performance, and prioritizing essential workers
Chattanooga City Council today unanimously approved Mayor Tim Kelly’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget to advance the city’s One Chattanooga priorities and allocate resources to the things that are most important to Chattanoogans – from public safety and affordable housing, to investments in our roads, bridges, and parks – without increasing taxes.
“Last year we set a course to implement the One Chattanooga plan, and when you look at some of the key metrics — from the nearly 50,000 potholes that have been filled or the 275 additional early learning seats in the works, to the more than 2,000 Chattanoogans who have been housed, or the countless workforce development initiatives and apprenticeship programs we’ve launched — it’s clear that our strategy is working and that momentum is on our side,” said Mayor Kelly. “With this year’s budget, we’re building on that momentum and doubling-down on the things that we know matter most to Chattanoogans.”
This budget continues Mayor Kelly’s first-term commitment to allocate $40 million to paving and adds an additional $3 million to revitalize parks and green spaces. The budget includes $3 million for affordable housing and homelessness prevention, building on the momentum of his record-breaking 40 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness in 2022, according to the most recent point-in-time count.
Beyond the capital projects, this budget enhances Kelly’s efforts to reform and optimize city government, including the rollout of a new cost savings incentive program that rewards employees for identifying opportunities to save taxpayer money. The budget also includes funding to support the more efficient and effective delivery of essential city services, including new physical assets such as refuse trucks, as well as through the use of new digital tools.
Importantly, this budget includes a historic investment into non-sworn city employees, creating a new step play plan — long one of employees’ most requested changes — that will help attract and retain high quality talent among the city’s frontline workforce.
The new budget – which covers July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024 – is available for the public to view here. City Council voted on the budget on first reading on June 13, with final approval taking place June 20.
Roads, Parks, and other Critical Infrastructure Investments
- Kelly’s budget includes a $187 million investment into infrastructure — including roads, sidewalks, bridges, traffic signal synchronization, sewer, and stormwater projects — representing an increase of $57 million from the current budget. Ten million dollars will go toward repaving roads, in continued fulfillment of Kelly’s commitment to invest $40 million into road repair over four years. The proposed budget also sets aside $18 million for the future renovation of Walnut Street Bridge, $13.3 million of which is coming from federal funding sources.
- The city will also continue to invest heavily in preserving and enhancing its green spaces, with $1.3 million for a new park on Provence Street in Brainerd and $200,000 toward a new pilot program with Hamilton County Schools and Trust for Public Land, which will revitalize local schoolyards into accessible community parks that all residents can enjoy outside of school hours. Another $1 million will go toward the revitalization of the Chattanooga Skate Park, and $400,000 is set aside for long overdue maintenance projects in neighborhood parks.
- Nearly half of the city’s proposed operating budget will continue to flow into public safety, with the Police Department and Fire Department making up 45 percent of general fund expenditures.
- This year’s budget will continue to fund efforts to unify and strengthen community partnerships for violence prevention and interruption, with a focus on youth. It also continues funding for the Chattanooga Police Department’s Crisis Response Unit and Victims Advocate Center.
- To support city growth and maintain Chattanooga’s insurance services office (ISO) rating, the proposed budget adds 9 new firefighters and reserves $4.5 million for 5 new fire trucks. Favorable ISO ratings are essential to maintaining affordable homeowners insurance rates.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness Reduction
- Increasing affordable housing opportunities for all Chattanoogans remains a major priority for Kelly and residents alike, and the proposed budget reflects his ongoing commitment to reducing homelessness and creating and preserving affordable homes. The city will deploy more than $3 million in federal funds to create and preserve an additional 400+ units of affordable housing over the next year, and the proposed budget includes three positions to support new Chief Housing Officer Nicole Heyman – including, critically, a Director of Housing Finance.
- The budget also includes $2.6 million for the City’s Office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, with $820,000 going to the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition to continue rapid rehousing of residents experiencing homelessness and to develop a strategic outreach plan focused on veterans and households with children.
Effective and Efficient Local Government
- When running for mayor, Kelly pledged to provide a more effective and efficient local government for all Chattanoogans – and that includes ensuring taxpayer dollars are being used where they will make the most impact and best meet the needs of residents. The proposed budget demonstrates his ongoing commitment to fulfill that promise.
- It includes multiple investments to improve City service delivery, including 7 new refuse trucks and 4 new driver positions, as well as 2 new short-term vacation rental inspectors and an Administrative Hearing Officer to preside over disputes.
- The budget also includes a number of measures to reduce areas of operational redundancy and overlap – in projects, programs and jobs. It reorganizes the Department of Community Development, to sharpen its focus on community centers and services. It proposes funds for a new cost savings incentive program, to motivate employees to identify cost-savings opportunities within their own departments.
- And, as part of ongoing efforts to build a better local government and prioritize around efficient service delivery, the administration identified and eliminated 29 positions – 15 vacant, 14 filled, 6 of which were part time – that had become redundant, either through the reorganization of Community Development or newly streamlined processes that reduced workforce needs. Impacted staff are being paid through June 29 and are being encouraged to apply to the more than 30 vacant positions currently available at the City.
New Pay Plan Investments to Support Essential Workers
- As a service-focused entity, about 62 percent of the city’s operational expenditures go toward employee pay and benefits.
- Recognizing that quality and continuity of essential services depends on the city’s corps of essential workers, the budget proposes more than $3.5 million for a long-requested step pay plan for non-sworn employees. This historic new pay plan will provide a structure for incrementally increasing employee pay over time according to years of service and performance – something employees indicated was top priority for them during last fall’s employee engagement survey.
- Non-exempt (primarily hourly) employees will start with a pay increase based on years of service, with more than two-thirds receiving a more than 4 percent increase. Exempt (salaried) employees will not be placed based on years of service but will receive two steps, equivalent to about a 2 percent cost of living increase. Future step increases will incorporate a performance component.
- Appointed employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living increase, while sworn (CFD and CPD) and wastewater employees will receive their regularly scheduled step increase.