published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Hamilton County worker raises possible in this year's budget

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    Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Last year at this time, County Mayor Jim Coppinger and his staff were bracing for layoffs and $13 million in budget cuts.

This year, they're preparing to compensate the county's 1,867 workers, who haven't had a raise since the 2009 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2008.

Coppinger will begin meeting individually with county commissioners next week to talk about his proposal, he said Tuesday. He won't talk specifically about what type of compensation he'll propose but confirmed that he's still pushing for some.

"It's been a long time since employees have been compensated," he said. "Compensation comes in a lot of ways, whether you talk about health care or raises."

Coppinger will present his budget to county commissioners at their June 14 meeting, and commissioners are set to vote on the budget June 28. The 2013 fiscal year will begin July 1.

"It's going to be a work in progress all the way up until after we present it," he said.

Last year county leaders carved more than 50 positions from the budget, laying off 36 workers. At least 10 of those later were rehired.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said he doesn't expect any surprises in this year's budget.

"I'm expecting that we're going to get a balanced budget, certainly with no tax increase," he said.

Henry said he would support raises for county workers.

"I'd like to see that happen," he said. "Our employees have not had a raise in several years."

Henry said he'll be less likely to support a major budget increase for Sheriff Jim Hammond, who has requested an additional $1.85 million for next year.

"I don't think it's anyone on the commission having anything personal against the sheriff," he said.

Commissioners question Hammond's need for more money, noting that he has given raises to his command staff and spends more than $30,000 paying his son to maintain the department's website, Henry said.

"They feel like there's some expenditures that he's made that probably don't need to be made," Henry said.

Commissioner Mitch McClure agreed about the sheriff's budget.

"We've been getting a lot of pushback," McClure said. "The general public is concerned about it."

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at ahaman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

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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