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. 

 



Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BALLARD, ANTHONY MONTREL  2401 SOUTH CHAMBERLAIN AVENUE CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 29 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga PUBLIC INTOXICATION CRIMINAL IMPERSONATION --- BASLER, BOBBY LEE  4310 NORCROSS ROAD HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 32 years old Arresting Agency: ... (click for more)

6 Charged In Tennessee For TennCare Fraud; 1 In Hamilton County

Six people are charged with TennCare fraud in Knox, Blount and Hamilton counties. All but one of the cases involves prescription drugs; the other involves misrepresenting personal income in order to receive healthcare insurance benefits through TennCare.    The six arrests bring the total number of people arrested for TennCare fraud to 2,702 since the Office of Inspector ... (click for more)

Problems With The Proposed Apartments In Lookout Valley

I am deeply troubled at the way in which this proposal has been handled. The blatant disregard for the residents of Kelly's Ferry Road and the wishes of the Lookout Valley Area Plan (which was adopted by the city in 2003) by Chip Henderson and Tommy Austin amazes me. Yes, there was a meeting of the Lookout Valley Neighborhood association in August, but it wasn't on its normal ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Ooltewah & The Bullies

During the week of Christmas I got an email from a longtime friend at the Knoxville News-Sentinel that laughingly wondered what kind of basketball do you people play (in Chattanooga?) It included sketchy details of the rape, and subsequent surgery, of an Ooltewah High School basketball player who had been assaulted by his own teammates at a Gatlinburg holiday tournament. Today ... (click for more)

Up-Front Power Lifts Signal Mountain Past CCS, 3-0

Signal Mountain sent Chattanooga Christian a quick to-the-point message on Tuesday. The Lady Chargers better be ready for a tough match. Well, the Lady Eagles played extremely tough volleyball, used a quick start that set the tempo and went on to crush the Lady Chargers, 3-0, in a District 7-2A match at Signal Mountain School. Signal Mountain’s up-front attack dominated ... (click for more)

Grace Takes 3-0 Win From CSAS In Volleyball

The Grace Academy Lady Golden Eagles didn't waste much time taking a 3-0 victory from CSAS on Tuesday evening at CSAS, Grace winning the District 5-A match by scores of 25-11, 25-12 and 25-20. Alexandra Smith had 13 kills and eight digs for the winners while Summer Dean finished with 18 assists.  Maggie Long contributed 19 digs while Autumn Parrott had four aces to go along ... (click for more)