How do Hamilton County commissioners spend $1 million?

How do Hamilton County commissioners spend $1 million?

February 26th, 2012 by Ansley Haman in News

Document: Budget Allocations

For Hamilton County Commissioners by districts

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