Hamilton County Commission Finally Votes to Approve 2020 Budget


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — After a heated debate, the Hamilton County Commission has finally voted to pass the 2020 fiscal year budget.

But the vote today was not a simple process.

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It was long and complicated.

The school budget is 418 million dollars, including 8 million from the rainy day fund…..but some commissioners had not given up the idea that a teacher raise should be included. Commissioner Warren Mackey offered an amendment to the resolution, to increase taxes.

“To achieve that 5 percent tax increase for the teachers, it’s going to cost twelve point five million dollars,” said Commissioner Mackey.

Chairman Sabrina Smedley reminded Mackey that commissioners do not have line item veto over the school funds. In other words, they couldn’t tell the school Board what to do with extra funds if that amendment passed.

School Board member Kathy Lennon assured the commissioners, that if they voted to give the school board more money for teacher raises, that’s where it would go.

“Do I want an amendment for our teachers to have a raise? I have to say yes. Because I think that our teachers in Hamilton County deserve a raise,” said Kathy Lennon.

But after more discussion, it appears teachers are getting more money in the revised budget..along with a one time 1500 dollar bonus.

“It’s at least two and a half percent for this year across the board, some, as an average, there may be some lower, and there’s some higher,” said HCDE Chief Business Officer, Brent Goldberg.

“I just heard Mr. Goldberg, say that the average raise that will be realized, with the shell game they play, will be two and a half percent, this year” said Commissioner Tim Boyd.

Commissioner Mackey’s amendment failed, 6-3. Then Commissioner Chip Baker proposed a second amendment for a 4 million dollar increase to be used for teacher raises. That also failed, but got one more vote than Mackey’s amendment.

Finally, the budget without a tax increase was voted on and passed 8-1, with only Commissioner Mackey voting no.

Mayor Jim Coppinger then warned that the county has been surviving off of strong growth for the last decade, but with the needed facilities repairs and improvements, the same issues will come up again next year.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at ahenderson@wdef.com.