After committee approval, commission to vote on budget

The budget committee of the Hamblen County Commission unanimously approved a $136.9 million budget Tuesday night that will go before the full commission for a vote later this month.

The committee has spent the last month going over each department in a budget that mostly stayed flat from last year due to concerns from COVID-19.

“It’s a very basic, simple budget with not many changes from last year,” said Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain.

Brittain said the budget maintains the level of services from last year. It also provides the necessary revenue needed to help pay off the debt acquired for building a new jail, as well as renovating Morristown-Hamblen High School West.

The budget contains a 3-cent property tax increase on $100,000 per assessed value. That would mean an additional $1 a month on the tax bill for a home appraised at $150,000 per assessed value.

The committee had previously approved all department budgets. The committee approved the full budget Tuesday with a 13-0 vote.

The 2020-2021 fiscal year budget includes $104.7 million in school expenditures for Hamblen County schools, which is traditionally the largest piece of the county budget. The general fund, which funds most all other county services including the sheriff’s department, has $21.5 million in projected expenses. General debt service is around $4.8 million in expenditures, sanitation expects to spend around $2.5 million and expense for the highway department will be around $3.1 million.

The highlight of Tuesday’s special called meeting of the budget committee was additional money given to the highway capital projects fund, as well as the school system. Because the state had additional money this year, state legislators approved giving counties and municipalities a share of the money.

Hamblen County received $1.25 million from the state.

Brittain had given a draft last week to the commission that included where the money could possibly go in capital projects and asked commissioners to come back with any changes.

A large portion of the capital expenditures from the local government grant was $450,000 appropriated for road paving.

There was also $73,914 of leftover expenses that had been undesignated in the budget.

County Commissioner Chris Cutshaw made a motion to approve spending $50,000 of the undesignated funds to road paving, bringing the total amount given to road paving at $500,000.

Commissioners asked Brittain how much that would put into the overall road paving budget.

“That will give them more than a million,” Brittain said.

Commissioner Thomas Doty also made a proposal that any money left over and not spent from the grant money be given to the Hamblen County Department of Education.

“They may need a little bit of cushion,” Doty said.

The committee approved the shifting of money in the grant 13-0.

The Hamblen County Commission will next have first reading of the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget on July 23.