Skillern Says County Commission "Misunderstood"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - by Gail Perry

"The County Commission is misunderstood,” Chairman of the Hamilton County Commission, Fred Skillern, told the Chattanooga Kiwanis Club at their weekly meeting Tuesday. The commission has only two employees, the county attorney and auditor. The commissioners make no laws. Their main responsibilities are dealing with the county’s money. They also make decisions about county roads, make appointments due to retirement or death but primarily are in charge of the county budget. “The county mayor does all else, but we get credit for it and also the blame,” he said.

The Hamilton County budget is $665 million with 59 percent of that designated for the schools, he said. Schools can ask the County Commission for additional money which would be derived from taxes. He told the audience that no new county tax has been requested in the past five years, but money is available because it has been managed well. The county is one of two in the state to have AAA bond rating and there is a well-stocked rainy-day fund balance. Hamilton County is in good enough shape to have a reduction in revenue and still meet its obligations, he said.

The speaker noted that the county is in charge of building schools. He said the Hamilton County School system decides what kind of schools will be built and where to put them, but because of the AAA bond rating the county can borrow money at a low rate. And, he said, when a school is built, the advantage of the good bond rating saves enough money to provide two additional classrooms. Currently, Hamilton County has $330 million indebtedness, and $36 million will be paid out this year toward the debt.

Mr. Skillern said as bonds mature, the county is able to keep schools under construction at all times. By building a new school and modernizing one each year, the County Commission is able to keep up with the needs of the county, he said. The Hamilton County system is not growing, having had only 50 new students added last year, but there is a constant shift in the population. “We feel comfortable that we can keep the schools up-to-date,” he said, and keep-up with the shifting population.  

Like the city of Chattanooga and most of the nation, he told the Kiwanis members that Hamilton County gives incentives for tax breaks for getting industries to move to town, which he said helps to save a lot of small businesses. The new large companies that locate here and benefit from these tax breaks, however, want an educated work force, he said. The Hamilton County Commission decided eight years ago that these companies need to help pay for that, and so they do pay taxes which go toward education. Schools benefit by getting revenues from all new business that locate in the county. As an example, he said $3,200,000 is paid each year by Volkswagen for education.

County Commissioners each also have money to spend from a discretionary fund for needs they see in their respective districts. Travel money is available for the commissioners, as well. Mr. Skillern said that in the 30 years he has worked with the county he has never filled out a travel expense form, but instead his has been given to the schools.

When asked if the request for same-sex benefits has affected the Hamilton County government, Mr. Skillern answered that, as of now, no discussion has come before the commission.

He said a vote by the commission would not matter since the county is under the State Consolidated Retirement Plan which is dictated by state law. 

 




Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news.  Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us ... (click for more)

Latest Bradley County Arrest Report

Click  here  for the latest Bradley County arrest report. (click for more)

Vote No On The Rezoning For A New Landfill In Harrison - And Response (3)

County Commissioners, please consider the following facts when voting on the rezoning request for a new privately-owned C&D landfill in Harrison.  Use of this property for a landfill has been rejected by the county three times in the past (1971, 1984 and 2007).  In 1971 and 2007 the County Commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal.  In 1984 the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Lady Canes Knocked To State Volleyball Loser's Bracket By Portland

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – East Hamilton, a relative green horn when it comes to volleyball’s biggest stage, saved its best effort of the season for Tuesday’s opening match of the 2017 state tournament against Sullivan South. Facing a five-time and defending champion from Kingsport, Tennessee, East Hamilton notched an impressive 3-0 sweep by scores of 25-22, 25-14 and 25-17. ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan Again To Advance At State

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The third time was not the charm for Father Ryan here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Tuesday afternoon. Facing the Baylor Lady Red Raiders in the opening round of the TSSAA D-II Class AA state volleyball tournament, the defending state runner-up Baylor squad defeated their Nashville rivals in three straight sets, winning by scores of 25-19, 25-12 and 25-23. ... (click for more)