Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger proposes $642.3 million budget

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger proposes $642.3 million budget

June 14th, 2012 by Ansley Haman in Local Regional News

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is seen in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger presented a $642.3 million budget to Hamilton County Commissioners this morning.

It includes a 3 percent raise for workers and requires no tax increase for the 2013 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The budget, up more than $16 million over last year's, allocates an extra $11 million to education. That $11 million includes additional state funding, PILOT money, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) funding, and property tax growth.

"None of that is money that we've increased," County Mayor Jim Coppinger said.

By law, the schools are automatically guaranteed a percentage of property tax growth.

Each department will be charged an extra 7.5 percent increase for the health insurance fund, which hasn't been increased for two years. As a result, the sheriff's department budget is up about $300,000. Only about $200,000 of that is for fuel costs. Much of the rest is for the health contribution.

The Property Assessor's office will be receiving almost $600,000 to cover next fiscal year's state-mandated reappraisal.

The budget recommends one new position - a gang prosecutor in the District Attorney's office. By statute, the county must also provide 75 percent of that allocation to the Public defender's office.

Finance Administrator Louis Wright said the county is also increasing its capital outlay to $3.7 million to meet public safety needs.

"We're buying a new ambulance and remounting one," Wright said.

Though the budget contains no tax increase, Emergency Management Service transportation fees will be increasing 45 percent. Those fees haven't been increased in 6 and a half years and is losing money, Coppinger said.

"We're trying to get this to where it breaks even," Coppinger said.

In fiscal 2012, which ends June 30, the county has lost at least $1.2 million. The overall EMS budget is less than $10 million.

The county runs emergency ambulance service for the unincorporated areas and all municipalities but East Ridge.

"We're finding that Medicare is getting more stringent on what they pay," Wright said.

The breakdown of those transported breaks down to about 20 percent who are private payers and another 78 percent who have private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, Coppinger said.

The budget would leave the county with a fund balance of $96 million.

Commissioners plan to vote on the budget June 28.