published Friday, June 29th, 2012

Hamilton County commissioners OK budget, EMS transport hike

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Next year's $642.3 million budget unanimously sailed through the Hamilton County Commission on Thursday morning.

County workers will receive 3 percent across-the-board raises, and county residents will be paying the same property tax rate as last year.

Only one question -- from Hamilton County Commission District 3 candidate Mitzi Yates -- stirred a substantive discussion about the 2013 fiscal year changes, which go into effect July 1.

Yates rose during the public comment period to ask about the effects that a 45 percent increase in emergency management services costs for ambulance service would have on those without insurance.

"A lot of times ambulance service is the only way to get health care," Yates said. "Is this a moneymaker or a break-even for the county?"

Commission Chairman Larry Henry told Yates that the public comment period was not the appropriate forum for her questions, which she should direct toward county staff members.

"We're not here to be in a question-and-answer situation with this," Henry said.

Several commissioners and County Mayor Jim Coppinger provided her additional information.

The county is seeking to make up for a $1.2 million loss in emergency transportation costs from this year, Assistant Finance Administrator Al Kiser said. He confirmed the fee hike isn't to make money but to break even.

Coppinger said two weeks ago that 22 percent of county residents aren't covered by any private or government health plan.

"The private payers are generally the ones that aren't able to pay," Coppinger told Yates on Thursday.

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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