Council, Berke's office reach last-minute deal on roads in budge - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Council, Berke's office reach last-minute deal on roads in budget session


Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's proposed $212-million budget received its first nod of approval from City Council Tuesday night.

In the first reading for operational spending, the Council unanimously approved the budget.

Council members held a short budget session Tuesday morning. The only looming issue left to negotiate between council and the Berke administration was adding more funding for city road maintenance, and that agreement was reached.

"I'm pleased with the responsiveness of the administration and the willingness of this council to come together," says Chip Henderson.

Council Vice Chairman Chip Henderson says as a part of last-minute negotiations, the Berke administration agreed to bump road funding up from $1.7 million to $2.5 million.

"It's more money than we've had in paving since 2004. So I look at it as year one as a process. It's a good start," says Henderson.

He says it is an issue that is important to constituents like Charity Martin, who lives off bumpy St. Elmo Avenue.

"Somebody asked me the other day, they were in my kitchen, they were like, 'Is that thunder?' And I said, 'No! That's just a huge truck going by on the potholes,'" says Martin.

"I think it shows efficient government on our part," says Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem.

Hakeem says there are several facets to the proposed budget he thinks will benefit the city.

"The Lexia program that's going into the recreation centers, the possibility of acquiring the Harriet Tubman site for jobs within the community," says Hakeem.

On top of that, the budget includes a one and half percent pay raise for city employees. It also allocates funds to revamp city-owned property into affordable housing. One of the bigger issues being addressed is public safety.

"I don't think you've ever seen a budget focused on public safety the way this one is," said Mayor Berke in a past interview.

"It puts 40 new officers, police officers on the streets. And I think most importantly, it does it without raising taxes and I think that's big," says Henderson.

Henderson and other council members say overall, they are confident in Berke's budget overhaul.

"I think that we've made a difference today. We will make a difference today with this budget," says Henderson.

The increased money for paving was shifted from funds marked for repair and replacement of city-owned property, like office furniture, as well as the city's contingency fund.

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