Proposed FY24 budget includes key investments in infrastructure, public safety, and housing, and underscores Kelly’s commitment to responsive and effective local government
Mayor Tim Kelly released his proposed fiscal year 2024 budget on Tuesday, keeping his promise to advance One Chattanooga priorities and invest in areas that are most important to Chattanoogans – such as affordable housing, infrastructure and public safety – with no tax increase.
More than $30 million is allocated for roads and bridges, including $18 million reserved for the future renovation of Walnut Street Bridge, and an additional $3 million is set aside for the creation and revitalization of new parks and green spaces. Another $3 million is reserved for affordable housing and homelessness prevention, which will build on the record-breaking 40 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness in 2022.
The proposed budget also reinforces Kelly’s commitment to reform local government, with a new cost savings incentive program, funds to improve city service delivery, and a historic investment in a new step pay plan for non-sworn employees, to help attract and retain quality talent among the city’s frontline workforce.
“Last year’s budget set a bold and actionable plan for One Chattanooga, and we made significant progress to show for it – from reducing homelessness to addressing violent crime,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “This year, we’re doubling down on that work, with no tax increase and a sharpened focus on efficient and effective governance — so that every taxpayer dollar gets put to work serving residents, lifting up our neighborhoods, and driving forward the One Chattanooga vision.”
The proposed budget – which covers July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024 – is available for the public to view here. Members of the public are invited to attend informational sessions on the budget at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays in the City Council conference room through May 23, and a public hearing will be held on June 6 at 6 p.m. City Council will vote on the budget on first reading on June 13, with a final vote scheduled for June 20.
“This budget year called for us to focus funding and streamline departments, projects, and processes, to ensure our taxpayer dollars are used where they will best meet the needs of all Chattanoogans,” said Chief Operating Officer Ryan Ewalt. “We listened to the community and to our team members when making those decisions, to ensure that the budget we put forth is responsive, fiscally sound, and advances us toward One Chattanooga.
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.
If the plan is approved, 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.