Both Republicans running for the Hamilton County Commission District 3 seat want residents to be able to monitor in real time how commissioners spend more than $1 million in annual discretionary funds.
Right now, the county's Finance Department is the only place to get information about the accounts. The County Commission office doesn't maintain copies of the records.
Marty Haynes, who first raised the issue, said the information should be available online.
"Most people don't know where that money goes," he said. "What I'd like to see is the day you spent the money and what it went for specifically."
Commissioners have steered discretionary money in the past two years to projects such as Shackleford Ridge Park, high school sports uniforms and bleachers, the YMCA, parent-teacher association meetings and a prayer breakfast.
Haynes said he doesn't have a problem with the way money is being spent, but the process should be more transparent.
Commissioner Mitch McClure, who is defending the District 3 seat he was appointed to last January, said he posted his discretionary expenditure list on his campaign website after Haynes began talking about the steps he had to take to get the information.
"I've been open and honest and transparent as can be," he said. "I think it's something we need to do."
In this fiscal year, each of the nine commissioners was allotted $100,000 in capital outlay discretion money, $4,500 for travel and $8,000 for expenses. The latter two accounts can be converted to discretionary funds if they aren't spent for travel or expenses.
Most commissioners spend the money on neighborhood groups, volunteer fire departments or school projects such as interactive whiteboards for schools or ballfield lights.
Knox County, which is similarly in size to Hamilton, slashed discretionary funds this fiscal year from $6,000 per commissioner to nothing as part of a belt-tightening measure.
DISCRETIONARY FUND HIGHLIGHTS
Top three capital outlay expenses for this fiscal year, by district:
DISTRICT 1 -- FRED SKILLERN
Soddy-Daisy High School field lighting -- $23,800 (balance of project)
Bakewell Community Center -- $5,000
Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department -- $6,000
DISTRICT 2 -- JIM FIELDS
Mountain Education Foundation -- $30,000 total
Shackleford Ridge Park -- $121,505 reserved
First Things First -- $15,500
DISTRICT 3 -- MITCH McCLURE
Big Ridge Elementary computers and software -- $14,625
Hixson Youth Athletic Association -- $10,000
Hixson Elementary School literacy program -- $10,000
DISTRICT 4 -- WARREN MACKEY
Central High School special project -- $15,000
Reach One Youth Outreach Services -- $5,500
Transfer to Hamilton County Sheriff's Office -- $5,000
DISTRICT 5 -- GREG BECK
Mary Walker Historical and Educational Foundation -- $25,000
Second Missionary Services Inc., Project Success -- $42,840
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga -- $8,500
DISTRICT 6 -- JOE GRAHAM
City of Red Bank -- $5,000
Highland Park Commons -- $4,500
Lookout Valley Lions Club -- $450
DISTRICT 7 -- LARRY HENRY
East Hamilton Middle/High bleachers -- $25,000
Ooltewah Nursery & Landscape for East Hamilton softball field -- $20,129
Central High School project -- $15,000
DISTRICT 8 -- TIM BOYD
Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts Promethean boards -- $12,000
City of East Ridge -- $7,500
East Ridge High School automotive competition -- $5,000
DISTRICT 9 -- CHESTER BANKSTON
East Hamilton Middle/High baseball field -- $80,000*
Apison Fire Hall and Community Center -- $75,000*
Snow Hill Elementary -- $14,500
* Expense reserved in previous year's budget. Because unused funds roll over, some commissioners have a balance of more than the $100,000 allocated in fiscal 2011.
Source: Hamilton County Finance Department
Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...
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