Commissioners drop travel budget boost

Hamilton County Assessor of Property Marty Haynes speaks to county commissioners.

Hamilton County commissioners went on the record Wednesday against a proposal to double their travel budget for the coming fiscal year.

Chairman Randy Fairbanks had asked for the extra money in the commission budget for fiscal 2019.

Fairbanks told the Times Free Press on Wednesday that commissioners Greg Beck and Warren Mackey had asked him to get the travel budget raised from $12,500 a year to $25,000. The request was not publicly discussed, but Mayor Jim Coppinger mentioned it in his general fund budget presentation Tuesdsay.

At last week's meeting, two commissioners said the extra money wasn't needed, since most of them weren't even spending what they had. Commissioner Greg Martin called the proposed boost an attempt to bring back discretionary spending.

Under county rules, travel money not spent in one year can be rolled over and then spent at commissioners' discretion.

Records showed most commissioners were donating their unspent money to schools, fire departments and other things that benefit their districts, similar to how they distributed annual $100,000 discretionary grant until Coppinger ended the program in 2017.

On Wednesday, Martin made a motion to keep the travel budget the same and was seconded by Joe Graham, who also had questioned the increase. That forced a vote.

Only Commissioner Chester Bankston voted for the increase. Beck, whom Fairbanks said had asked for the increase, reversed position and voted against it. So did Tim Boyd, Fairbanks, Jim Fields, Graham, Martin and Sabrena Smedley. Mackey was absent.