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. 


Many Photos Of Fairyland Development Featured In New Hiener Photo Book

Many photos of the Fairyland development on Lookout Mountain are featured in the new historic photo book being published by Garnet and Frieda Carter carried out the fanciful development in the 1920s. It was during the construction that the game of miniature golf was invented when a golf ball was hit through a drain pipe at the job site. It was first called ... (click for more)

Public's Help Sought In Identifying Theft Suspect

The East Ridge Police Department is requesting the public’s help in identifying the man in the these images. He is a possible suspect in a sleight of hand theft at the East Ridge Neighborhood Walmart on Sept. 18. Anyone with any information relating to the identity or whereabouts of this individual is asked to contact the East Ridge Police Department at 423-486-9141. (click for more)

Bobby Stone, Is It Really A Win?

It brought a smile to my face this morning when I saw where the case was thrown out of court against Mr. Stone and the domestic violence charge.  I have supported his cause from the beginning, but I do feel heartbreak because his personal life had to be tossed out there for all of us to see.   I truly hope and pray things turn around for him and his wife, while I feel ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Prayer Over Despair

As a strong proponent of early voting, I joined hundreds at the Hamilton County Election Commission headquarters on Amnicola Highway yesterday to exercise what I consider one of our greatest freedoms – “for the people, by the people.” Candidly, I have never been as upset or as disappointed over my choices for President in my life. Locally I am fine with our candidates but to pick ... (click for more)

Briarcrest Beats Baylor For D-II Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO – The 2016 volleyball season didn’t end like the Baylor girls would have liked, but they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of after getting beat by Briarcrest in the D-II Class AA state final here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Friday afternoon. The Lady Saints had beaten Baylor in a winners bracket final on Thursday and proved it was no fluke as they won in three straight ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Falls To Knox Catholic In AA Final

MURFREESBORO – There were five state championships awarded for high school volleyball at MTSU’s Murphy Center Friday, but none of them came back to Chattanooga. Baylor finished second to Briarcrest while Signal Mountain also had to settle for the runner-up award after losing in three straight sets to Knoxville Catholic. The Lady Irish, improving to 32-11 for the season, won ... (click for more)