The County Commission on Wednesday voted 8-0 to approve an $833 million balanced budget with no tax increase that was submitted by County Mayor Jim Coppinger.
He said, “We have faced some significant financial challenges due to the coronavirus and tornadoes over the past fiscal year. Fortunately the $71 million we will receive from the federal government, half of which has already arrived, will allow us to pay for some of the investments we have made in people and equipment to protect the health of our citizens.”
Education, public safety, economic development and jobs continue to be the budget’s highest priorities with $491,959,000 of the new budget going to education.
Public safety was allocated $60.5 million going to the sheriff’s department.
Ninety two additional deputy, jailer and related administrative positions have been added to this year’s budget.
While some services will see additional revenue, many requests for additional funding were denied this year. A total of $13.5 million in requested funds were cut.
County Mayor Coppinger added, “Despite the financial challenges we have faced over the past 12 months there have been some highlights. Our sales tax collections increased by 4.6 percent, raising the total of sales tax revenue to $96.4 million, which accounts for 12 percent of our revenues.
"We have again presented a budget to taxpayers which meets our governmental, education and public safety needs, while maintaining our valued AAA bond rating from the three major rating agencies. This budget reflect the commendable work our employees have done in this most stressful of years. Our Health Department and Emergency Management Agency met every challenge of the pandemic and worked tirelessly to serve our citizens. As did our public works, parks and recreation and other employees throughout Hamilton County government during the tornadoes.”
Commissioner Tim Boyd made a motion to delete funding for Read 2020 from the budget, but only Warren Mackey voted along with him.
He said since Read 2020 was started that the state has come along with similar literacy programs that would be available to Hamilton County at no charge.
County Mayor Coppinger defended the program, saying it was an early literacy effort that became a model for many others to copy.
Public safety remains a key element of the service Hamilton County provides to its citizens and the value of Hamilton County’s Emergency Management Agency has been on full display in recent months as the county continues to recover from the 2020 Easter Tornadoes and pandemic. Public safety which includes the sheriff’s department is 15% ($124,731,000) of this year’s budget.
Mayor Coppinger added the county was able to hold the line on employee’s health insurance costs with no increase, once again saving taxpayer dollars.