Public Engagement Results
Since 2013, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and his Administration have worked to build a City budget that reflects the priorities of the people of Chattanooga and makes more effective use of public dollars through a process called Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO).
The BFO process first engages city residents to set priority areas and goals, allocates resources to those areas, and then asks City of Chattanooga Departments and external agencies to submit offers requesting funding to achieve specific results. Groups of subject matter experts and citizens -- called Results Teams -- recommend funds to the budget offers that will best accomplish the public’s goals. A budget composed of funded offers is compiled by the Mayor’s Office and City Finance staff and then presented to the City Council for their approval. The City’s Office of Performance Management and Open Data (OPMOD) then tracks the results of funded offers and uses the data to inform and improve implementation.
Over the past six years, the BFO process has allowed for more citizen engagement and transparency, better results using fewer tax dollars, and more opportunities for planning and collaboration.
The foundation of BFO is input from our residents. This year, the City hosted three public engagement sessions for residents to voice their priorities, ideas, and needs for the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. These sessions were promoted through social media, phone calls, emails, word of mouth, and local press. Additionally, input was also collected through an online survey. In total, more than 250 responses were heard.
Each session opened with a brief presentation from Mayor Berke and members of his staff on the City’s mission and vision, the budget process, and how public input is used. Then attendees broke out into tables of 4-8 people facilitated by Department Administrators, Mayor’s Office staff, and Finance Department staff. Attendees spent 15 minutes discussing each results area: Stronger Neighborhoods, Smarter Students and Stronger Families, Safer Streets, and a Growing Economy. For each result area, facilitators started by asking “What would a city with (results area) look like?” and attendees responded with the ideas, priorities, and items they believed would be needed to achieve each result.
Smarter Students, Stronger Families
The Smarter Students and Stronger Families results area focuses on ways City government enhances development of young people through out-of-school activities and education, early learning, and ways to provide resources that help families thrive.
Although the City does not control our public school system, most responses focused around the Hamilton County school system and residents desire to increase funding and quality and provide increased pay and benefits to teachers. Residents also feel that the City has an important role to play in enhancing public education through funding out-of-school activities, mentoring, and job opportunities for school aged children in Chattanooga. Continued focus and funding for enhanced quality early learning and child care that is affordable and accessible to parents and caregivers in Chattanooga was also a priority. Finally, ensuring families have access to a support network of mentors, faith based organizations, and social services to support them and have an increased access to resources that help them succeed as parents was important in this area as well.
The Safer Streets results area focuses on keeping Chattanooga residents safe through police and fire services, quality safe infrastructure, and activities that help prevent crime.
The largest priority in this results area was an increase in visible police patrols in neighborhoods, along with continued improvements in building positive relationships between the police and community members. Residents felt this would increase their feeling of safety and help deter and respond to crime in their area. Some expressed a concern with police violence and behavior and asked for additional training, vetting, and discipline practices to reduce this stigma of officers. Residents also expressed the desire to see a continued focus on reducing violent crime, specifically shootings.
Next, responses focused on infrastructure that would help people more safely get around Chattanooga like street lighting, sidewalks and crosswalks, walking paths, and bike paths and lanes. Residents also expressed a need for safer driving in Chattanooga through enhanced traffic law enforcement and traffic calming efforts that would decrease driving speed in areas with pedestrians such as public spaces, business districts, mixed-use areas, or neighborhoods. Many residents felt that cleaner, more attractive looking spaces would help deter crime and make people feel safe by investing in efforts to reduce trash, graffiti, and improving the appeal of vacant areas that may be overgrown or deteriorating.
Finally, residents wanted to see the City invest in programs and initiatives to help people in poverty like reducing homelessness, improving mental health treatment access and effectiveness, helping ex-offenders find employment, and improving wages and income for vulnerable populations.
The Stronger Neighborhoods results area focuses on developing communities, building connected and engaged residents, and investing in infrastructure that allows for a high quality of life.
Residents first and foremost wanted the city to build a community with opportunities to connect with their fellow neighbors, build relationships, work together to improve their neighborhood, and have fun. This could be achieved through investing in community events, neighborhood associations and neighborhood leadership development or efforts to increase a feeling of neighborhood identity and pride. Next in importance, was increasing the amount of affordable housing available in Chattanooga by facilitating development of new income-restricted rental units and helping people to afford homeownership. Many residents asked for increased investment and improvements to CARTA and Chattanooga's public transportation system. Residents also stressed the need to continue to prioritize efforts to reduce homelessness and help find housing for people without shelter.
Many residents asked for investments in the physical environment of where they live. Infrastructure, specifically repairs to roads and installation of new sidewalks and walking paths, was near the top of the priority list here. Residents want more access to green spaces and parks near where they live as well. Many people expressed the need for decreasing vacant or blighted properties through increasing code enforcement officers or tearing down or repairing vacant buildings.
Improving our Youth and Family Development Centers and ensuring young people have access to activities near where they live was also important. Increasing equity to ensure the City invests more money in historically underinvested neighborhoods than others was important to some, and, helping to bring more local businesses near neighborhoods, particularly grocery stores, was important.
The Growing Economy area focuses on how the City can facilitate business and job growth and ensure more people in Chattanooga have economic opportunity and mobility through higher wages and career growth.
At the very top of residents priority list was finding a way to increase their income through a higher paying job or an increased wage. Investments in ways to help people grow their income by gaining job experience, training, or higher education was a top priority for non-legislative ways to create income growth.
The City's Budget Process
The Budgeting for Outcomes process continues by accepting offers from City departments and agencies to deliver on these priority outcomes. Each offer includes which outcomes the organization hopes to achieve, a plan to achieve those outcomes, financial information, and performance measures. Next, five teams of City Government leaders and Chattanooga residents read, review, and rank each offer and recommend funding levels. Then, the City's Budget Leadership Team creates a balanced budget. Finally, City Council reviews the Mayor's budget and approves, amends, or denies the budget.
Developing the City Budget
- November - December - Budget process starts with collecting public input
- January - Share public input results and submit budget offers
- February - March - Results teams review offers and give recommendations
- April - May - City's budget leadership team creates a balanced budget
- May - Budget is published and presented to City Council for approval
- June - City Council reviews the budget
- July - Budget is passed