Unveiled last week, the City of Chattanooga’s newest budget is anchored by a vision-forward strategic plan that aims to close gaps in prosperity, bolster development and build upon the city’s legacy of community-driven progress. Working in tandem with the plan, titled “One Chattanooga,” the latest budget allocates $33 million toward improving housing affordability, among other key investments.
In the past two decades, the median monthly rental price in Chattanooga has doubled, from $495 to more than $1,000, significantly outpacing income growth during the same period. With renters making up nearly 50% of the city’s residents, and home prices soaring, the number of residents characterized as “housing burdened” (spending more than 30% of income on housing) is on the rise.
“This budget includes some bold investments, and we must continue to be bold and aggressive as we implement the One Chattanooga strategic plan,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said. “We can’t afford not to.”
The city’s $33 million investment provides seed funding for a larger $100 million affordable housing initiative that will “aggressively seek to preserve or create thousands of units of affordable housing” during a five-year period. Strategies will include subsidies, down-payment assistance, gap financing, land acquisition and partnerships with community financial institutions.
Also allocated in the new budget is $131 million toward critical infrastructure, including sewer and stormwater projects, sidewalks, bridges, road construction, and the addition of two full-time employees dedicated to pothole repair. As part of Kelly’s promise to invest at least $40 million to repave roads over the next four years, $10 million of the infrastructure line item will solely fund paving projects.
Building upon last year’s $30 million investment to increase pay for essential workers, the new budget introduces a 3% pay raise for full- and part-time city employees, bringing the city’s minimum wage to $15.45 per hour.
Employees will not see their health insurance premiums rise, nor will taxes increase as a result of the new budget.
Other budget highlights include a new $500,000 innovation fund, $5 million toward the renovation of the historic Tivoli Theatre, and $5 million toward early site preparation at Enterprise South Industrial Park, which has the potential to attract another major automotive or electric battery manufacturer.
“This year’s budget is both bold and fiscally sound, responsibly taking on our city’s most persistent challenges, while also looking ahead to build long-term prosperity for every resident in every neighborhood,” said Brent Goldberg, Chief Financial Officer, City of Chattanooga. “As the city embraces a culture of continuous improvement, we’re working to streamline processes and prioritize innovative approaches to ensure that we are wise stewards of taxpayer resources.”
The fiscal year 2023 budget may be viewed online at budget.Chattanooga.gov. Public budget education sessions will be held at 3:30 p.m. every Tuesday through May 31, in the City Council chamber, with a public hearing scheduled May 31 at 6 p.m. The first reading of the budget ordinance will take place June 7. View the One Chattanooga strategic plan here.