Chattanooga City Council Passes Mayor Kelly’s First Budget Proposal

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Chattanooga City Council voted unanimously to approve the first capital and operating budgets proposed by Mayor Tim Kelly for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which rely on data-driven investments to align urban wages in the market with peer cities, repair aging infrastructure and close access gaps. to the convenience and amenities of a livable neighborhood.

“I am grateful to the Chattanooga City Council for partnering with us to lay the groundwork for addressing the structural issues facing our community while ensuring that the groundwork is also good, while ensuring that our first responders and essential workers are paid fairly, ”said Mayor Tim Kelly. “With this budget, we are able to capitalize on the growth of Chattanooga’s economy to ensure that every resident has access to quality and responsive urban services to keep pace with that growth.”

Essential compensation for essential workers

The 2021-22 fiscal year budget invests 100% of new operating dollars, more than $ 30 million, in improving compensation plans for first responders and other essential workers. In a national economy heavily affected by the global pandemic, the resulting labor shortages have strained the city’s ability to provide quality and continuity to even the most essential services the Chattanoogans have come to expect. and on which they depend.

Years of low wages – 15% to 36% below 50% of the markete percentile – drained the talent pool and drained front-line municipal agencies of qualified staff. To attract and retain skilled workers, this budget allows the City to better compete with higher starting salaries both in the private sector and in neighboring and comparable municipalities. The median increase for municipal general government employees is 18 percent, including a new minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.

Community safety

To maintain exceptional response times to calls for help from the public, the new compensation plan for fiscal year 2021-2022 will offer salary increases to first responders, positioning Chattanooga to compete with its peers and neighboring municipalities for best talent. A 2019 study commissioned by City HR recommended that to meet market rates, a 23% pay increase was needed for firefighters’ pay, as well as a 24% increase for police officers.

This budget also includes approximately $ 1.2 million to create a crisis response program, consisting of ten social workers and a director, to provide an alternative response and / or joint response to emergencies involving mental health and behavioral, substance abuse and quality of life. incidents of homelessness or poverty. Crisis Response Teams will support Chattanooga Police and Firefighters with social-oriented requests for crisis counseling, case management and initial contact for those in need. intoxicated, mentally or emotionally distressed, disoriented or in need of non-urgent medical attention. .

Additionally, the budget includes public safety capital investments totaling $ 5 million, including the Power to Protect solar project, as well as $ 100,000 to provide mental health support services to first responders – an expansion of the City’s traditional employee assistance program to address the unique mental health needs of frontline staff.

Neighborhood infrastructure and quality of life

An unprecedented $ 10 million will go to Public Works’ paving program – a down payment on what will be an annual commitment of $ 10 million over four years ($ 40 million in total) to help get the streets back. neighborhood in good condition. This work will be guided by a transportation asset management plan, a four-year paving plan and a full-time pothole inspector – providing more transparency, fairness and proactivity to repair aging roads. from Chattanooga.

The investment budget also includes:

  • $ 1.8 million for the construction and repair of sidewalks
  • $ 1.6 million for CARTA
  • $ 9 million for critical infrastructure, including additional road projects
  • $ 1 million for parks and playgrounds – including park maintenance and increased funding for a new parks and greenways master plan
  • $ 1.25 million for greenways and neighborhood connectivity
  • $ 3.5 million in infrastructure to support economic development in East Chattanooga
  • $ 700,000 for a neighborhood-focused community reinvestment fund targeting underserved neighborhoods

The city of Chattanooga is committed to reviewing capital budgets and infrastructure plans with an equity lens to reverse decades of infrastructure decline and ensure vulnerable communities are not left behind. A full-time Director of Neighborhood Design and Connectivity will also ensure that all Chattanoogans have access to the outdoors, as well as multimodal connections to jobs, education, healthcare, food. fresh, etc.

Education and Workforce Development

Through an innovative partnership with Hamilton County schools, more than $ 700,000 will be spent on Schools at the forefront of the community initiative, designed to remove barriers to academic success so that students and their families can thrive. City-funded staff, in seven schools located within the city limits, will work with principals to provide families with the resources needed to support students’ social and emotional development – ensuring that every child has access to safe and secure housing and even career services to pave the way for good jobs.

The budget also commits $ 2 million in capital for a building and construction workforce center at the old Garber School in East Chattanooga. The city is partnering with Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee, Hamilton County, Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga State, State of Tennessee and others to ensure the development of the industry’s workforce in three areas of integrated interest: an 11e/ 12e– professional academy level; adult education through the Construction Certification Program and other programs at Tennessee College of Applied Technology; and a career and business center to connect students with on-the-job training, as well as continuing education and support services for business professionals.

Raise our most vulnerable

The budget also invests nearly $ 7 million to transform YFD community centers, including $ 2 million in capital funding for renovations, to better reflect the needs of the communities in which they are located, with advisory boards. premises to enlighten their reach. To help make city support services more accessible at the neighborhood level, workforce development and other programs will be located in community centers. The centers will serve as gateways to a comprehensive network of programs and relationships, integrated into the communities of Chattanooga.

The FY2022 budget also increases funding for the Chattanooga Therapeutic Recreation Centers to approximately $ 337,000 – to provide more staff and double operating expenses. These centers provide essential and popular recreational services to people with disabilities, including the Camp ZooAbility summer program.

The Office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will receive an additional investment of nearly $ 300,000, enabling it to serve 560 more people experiencing homelessness. New OHS services will include: streamlining the intake and login processes to services, increasing the number of landlords who accept housing choice vouchers, and creating a single point of contact for service referrals . According to a point-in-time tally from 2021, Chattanooga’s homeless homeless population quadrupled during the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources aim to ensure that OSH can respond to the emergency of the moment.

A new community health unit led by Dr. Mary Lambert will help reduce racial disparities in health (including ensuring Chattanoogans have access to fresh and healthy food), establish regional partnerships and increase awareness. health literacy. LCO recently secured a two-year, $ 3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to bring health navigators to community centers, where they will help families understand their health care choices. health and connect them to primary care, as well as providing accurate information. on COVID-19 vaccines.

Responsive and efficient government

The fiscal year 2021-2022 budget also funds an equity officer, in a new equity and community engagement office, to help embrace an equity lens in municipal government, investments and initiatives. The capital budget also invests more than $ 1 million in digital infrastructure to support voter access and interaction with a more open local government – including a brand new Chattanooga.gov, an audio medium / video for information and public meetings, Outdoor Chattanooga and 311 mobile applications, and other technology upgrades to improve the efficiency of development review and authorization processes.

More information on the new municipal government structure that the Kelly Administration’s operating budget supports can be found in a June 8 press release, linked here.

“I want to thank Chattanooga City Council for their leadership in achieving this goal for our essential workers, first responders and residents. We are now ready to get to work, ”said Mayor Kelly. “The consistent leadership of Budget Committee Chair Carol Berz has provided our residents and stakeholders with an inclusive, thoughtful and effective budget process that has helped improve our budget. “

“I also want to thank our essential workers and first responders who responded for all of us during this unprecedented global pandemic. We owe you a great debt, ”continued Mayor Kelly. “We can do great things together, Chattanooga. This is only a first step, but it is an important step.

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