published Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Mayor Jim Coppinger proposes 3% raise for county workers, no tax hike

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry.

BY THE NUMBERS

Budget year — Overall — Schools

2012-13 — unknown — $383 million requested

2011-12 — $625 million — $370 million

2010-11 — $638 million — $372 million

2009-10 — $627 million — $359 million

2008-09 — $600 million — $348 million

  • Includes both county appropriations and money from other sources -- state and federal.

Source: Times Free Press archives, Hamilton County records

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger today will unveil next year's budget, which includes a 3 percent raise for county workers without a tax increase.

Though details of the proposal haven't been released, Coppinger confirmed Wednesday that his budget will include an across-the-board raise for employees. That will come, in part, from extra revenue generated from a projected 2 percent natural growth in property taxes and excess fees, Coppinger said.

"We're going to ask for the commission to do a 3 percent across-the-board raise for all employees," he said.

Coppinger will present his budget for the 2013 year, which begins July 1, to county commissioners. Though he has met individually with each commissioner, commissioners will have a public opportunity to discuss the budget this week and next, with plans to vote on it on June 28.

Employees also will not have to pay extra for health care contributions in the new budget. Coppinger said a contract entered last year between the county and Cigna decreased health care costs during the current fiscal year.

County Finance Administrator Louis Wright said there will be some shifting in the budget after today's presentation for last-minute employee health plan decisions, such as whether to carry single or family health coverage.

Last year's budget was about $625 million, with $369.5 million steered toward schools. That total included all federal and state appropriations that flow through the county, including Tennessee's health grants and Basic Education Program allocations.

This year's process has been much easier than last year's, when the county carved $13 million out after the expiration of a sales-tax sharing agreement with the city of Chattanooga, Coppinger said.

The 45-year-old agreement spelled out how the city and the county broke down their financial responsibilities for agencies they jointly funded. When the city decided not to renew the agreement, the county had to cut about 50 positions, ultimately laying off 36 workers -- 10 of whom were later hired for other county jobs.

This year's budget won't restore any of those positions, Coppinger said.

The only new position recommended in the budget will be for a gang prosecutor in the district attorney's office. When a position is added to the DA's office, 75 percent of the cost must also be allocated to the public defender's office.

"There hasn't been a gang prosecutor before," Coppinger said. "There will be no additional person added other than that."

Sheriff Jim Hammond had requested several new officers, none of which will be in the mayor's proposals. But Coppinger is recommending a fuel budget increase of about $180,000 for the sheriff.

Hammond's department has been battling fuel cost increases this year and last, with six-figure fuel overages both years.

about Ansley Haman...

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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