This week, Mayor Andy Berke released his Fiscal Year 2016 budget to the Chattanooga City Council and the public. The budget continues to focus on the priority areas identified by Mayor Berke in his first two budgets: safer streets, growing the local economy, making students smarter and families stronger, building stronger neighborhoods, and ensuring a high performing government.
Berke said the budget builds on the budgets of the past two years, and continues to invest in strategies needed to improve workforce, infrastructure, and public safety. “While we have seen successes, like unemployment dropping and robberies at a five-year low, we have to continue to work hard and invest in the strategies that will move the needle and improve lives for our neighbors,” said Mayor Berke.
The budget reflects Mayor Berke’s continued focus on public safety – over 45 percent of the general fund budget is spent on making Chattanooga safer. In addition to maintaining funding for previous initiatives, such as a Federal prosecutor who deals with crimes committed within the city limits, Mayor Berke’s budget includes money to establish a Special Victims Unit at the Chattanooga Police Department, an important step Police Chief Fred Fletcher says is long overdue.
“Establishing a Special Victims Unit will allow us to spend the needed time and manpower to combat domestic violence and other intimate violence that is driving over 30 percent of our violent crime,” said Chief Fletcher.
This budget also supports education, including a city-wide literacy initiative to provide extra reading help for kids and help for high school seniors who are filling out the federal financial aid form. In addition, the budget will make summer camp free for all low income kids to provide needed activities during the summer, as well as provide hot meals in the city’s YFD centers.
While the metro area unemployment rate is at its lowest in six years, this budget supports two drivers for the region’s economy: the Innovation District and the expansion of the second line at Volkswagen. In addition, the budget funds the city’s recently launched TechHire initiative, which will pair Chattanoogans with specific, abbreviated IT training programs. In addition to TechHire, the City is increasing its commitment to Tech Goes Home, a partnership with The Enterprise Center, the Benwood Foundation, Hamilton County, and others to ensure families and senior citizens have access to basic computer training and low cost hardware like ChromeBooks.
“I’m proud of the dedication city employees’ show each day to perform these tasks and many, many more. Whether it is delivering essential services or innovative policy solutions, city government is more attentive than ever to enhancing quality of life for our citizens. Over the next year, I look forward to seeing the city work with the private sector, nonprofits, churches, and families to build the best mid-size city in America,” said Mayor Berke.
For more information about initiatives or to view the complete budget, visit Chattanooga.gov.
Source: Office of the Mayor