HamCo Commissioners wrangle over discretionary funds - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

HamCo Commissioners wrangle over discretionary funds

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger's proposed budget would slice commissioners' discretionary purse strings by nearly a million bucks. Each of Hamilton County's nine commissioners have had $100,000 annually, to use as they see fit. But if the new budget is passed "as-is", so are the days of discretionary spending.

"Back then, county government raised taxes you know on a regular basis, we haven't raised taxes in eight years," says Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger on the historical dollars and cents involved to the 100-thousand dollar discretionary fund disbursed by each of Hamilton County's nine Commissioners, that Coppinger is now removing from next year's budget and to the chagrin of District 1 Commissioner Randy Fairbanks. 

"Most of the discretionary funds historically, from most of the commissioners has went to two main places, the schools and volunteer fire departments," says Fairbanks.

Outfitting local football teams with new uniforms has been one of the more popular recipients of the Commissioners' community goodwill, but Coppinger says he's viewing the big picture.

"We should be looking at Hamilton County as a whole and that's important to me," said Coppinger at the conclusion of Wednesday's commission meeting. " It's taxpayers dollars we're talking about, so lets look at Hamilton County as a whole and let's not get so focused on districts."

Commissioner Fairbanks says he's unsure if his counterparts will approve a budget that curtails their discretionary spending power. He adds future community interest projects, whether football teams or fire departments will have to make their plea for financing before the commission.        

"Which would be a tough sell at that point, because that's money that is not in the budget and thats always a tough sell," concludes Fairbanks.

A couple of commissioners deferred comment until they can review the topic in greater detail.

The budget could be passed as soon as June 17th.

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