Coppinger Budget Includes 34-Cent Tax Increase For Schools, No Increase For County Government; Sheriff Employees Gets Large Raises

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

County Mayor Jim Coppinger Tuesday morning presented a proposed budget that includes a 34-cent property tax increase for the county schools.  

It does not include any tax increase for county general government. The county mayor earlier had discussed a possible 15-cent general government increase for a total 49-cent increase.

Officials said the county school tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $85 per year and the owner of a $200,000 house $170 per year.

The county had a property tax increase two years ago with most of the proceeds going for construction of new schools.

County School Supt. Bryan Johnson is asking for an additional $34 million, which would take the 34-cent property tax increase. The total spending would rise to $443 million at the county schools.

It would go toward teacher pay raises and over 300 additional school personnel, including classroom support for teachers. 

The budget includes a large pay increase for sworn employees in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office as the budget of Sheriff Jim Hammond goes from $55.5 million to $59 million.

Sworn sheriff officers will get a minimum of five percent pay increase. There will be an increase of at least $1,250 for those making less than $50,000.

The average sheriff pay increase will be 14.1 percent, with 16 employees increasing by 40 percent.

County Mayor Coppinger said, "The sheriff won the lottery."

Sheriff Hammond said, "This will correct a myriad of problems, including retention of officers."

County general employees will receive 2.5 percent pay increases.

County general government spending will increase by $8.2 million - up 3.2 percent from $252.8 million to $261 million.

The entire county budget, counting the schools, will rise to $819.2 million under the request.

The county schools get 61 percent of the budget, while another four percent goes to debt service on county school projects.

County Mayor Coppinger said 14 percent of the budget is going for public safety.

There will be 35 new EMS employees, which is aimed at cutting overtime pay and long shifts.

There are six new sheriff employees, including two in the jail, two in patrol and two School Resource Officers.

The county is losing $350,000 from the expiring state Hall Tax on income. It will go away entirely in 2021.

The budget includes four new highway department workers and three in the health departments. Those are grant supported.

Ken Jordan, who oversees the county Equal Employment Opportunity Office, will move from part-time to full-time. Commissioner Tim Boyd questioned whether the county has enough cases for a full-time EEOC officer. County Mayor Coppinger said, "There are. You'd be surprised."

The county general budget was balanced by cutting $13.5 million from requests. That includes trimming capital outlay by $4.8 million, not giving $350,000 requested by CARTA, ArtsBuild and the Enterprise Center, and not funding six employees requested for the Mental Health Court. Commissioners questioned the latter cut, saying that is a program aimed at keeping people out of the jails. The county mayor said he is open to further discussion on that issue.

The county is putting $380,000 into the FUSE program that is also aimed at keeping those with mental issues out of jail and in places where they can get needed treatment.

The county fund balance will remain at $100 million.

A plan to issue a $90 million bond issue next spring for two new schools and a jail expansion was delayed until 2022 or 2023.

County Mayor Coppinger said he will hold a 9 a.m. press conference on Wednesday morning along with School Supt.Johnson and Sheriff Hammond.

He will again make a budget presentation at the 9:30 a.m. County Commission meeting.

Officials said the entire county budget is on the county website.




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