Mayor’s Minute: Berke outlines Chattanooga, TN 2021 budget

Mayor Berke spoke to attendees at one of the multiple FY21 Budget Public Input sessions the City held in November. | City of Chattanooga

This is one in a series of Voices pieces by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. We’re calling it the Mayor’s Minute. Want to share your voice? Anyone can contribute to NOOGAtoday here

Each year when we start to build a budget we look to the community for how we should allocate our resources. This process begins in November and we use that input as our guiding principles to build a budget that is responsible, resilient, and results-driven for Chattanoogans.

In one sense this year’s budget is no different. But in another, this budget is far different than what we imagined.

 At the start of this year, Chattanooga was poised to be the top city for jobs in the country.

Then, in March, the pandemic hit and we saw revenues come to a screeching halt. Just a few weeks later, a deadly tornado tore through our community leaving devastation in its wake. We knew we would have to rethink our budget.

With more than an $8 million decrease in revenues, we’re having to do more with less. Our budget saw cuts across every single department, but did not decrease services to our residents, did not cut salaries for our employees, and did not increase your taxes.

Responsible. Resilient. Results. 

My administration worked alongside the City Council to answer questions and address concerns as we do each year during budget review. 

Then in late May, we all watched in horror the unjust killing of George Floyd. This sparked a call for reviewing policing policies and how cities serve black and brown communities and respond to non-violent emergency calls. 

We immediately reviewed our policing policies to ensure the safety of residents and officers. We then looked at ways to reinvest some of our police budget to be more community and social work driven.

More than $1 million was reinvested to create the new Office of Community Resilience, which will bring together our Family Justice Center and Office of Public Safety to find new, creative solutions to respond to social and emotional crises. I believe that Chattanooga can be the city that figures this out first.

The Fiscal Year 2021 budget is not the one I envisioned when we set out to bring your priorities to life but being resilient means being able to withstand challenges and come out stronger than before.

We’ve been hit with three crises in the span of three months. My mission since Day One has been to break down the barriers preventing people from living the lives they want in our community. 

I believe this budget continues to promote this vision by ensuring we are responsible with your tax dollars while laying the groundwork for our City to respond to these challenges and emerge even more resilient and continuing to provide and deliver results for all Chattanoogans.

 – Mayor Andy Berke