The Budget Committee of the Hamblen County Commission ran through line items Tuesday night during its budget meeting, which in the end still found itself in a shortfall for the 2019-2020 proposed budget of more than $730,000.
But much of the business of the meeting was overshadowed by dispute regarding a newly created policy on cameras in the courhouse.
Commissioners two weeks ago approved a policy stating that anyone videotaping would have to go to the back of the courtroom in the left hand corner. The policy took effect on June 1 and as the meeting opened, Committee Chairman Randy DeBord asked attorney Linda Noe, who regularly videotapes the meetings, to move to the back of the room.
Noe refused to do so, saying her video camera bothered no one.
“I don’t think you can enforce this policy,” she said.
Commissioner Tim Goins then spoke up and told Sheriff Esco Jarnagin that the policy should be enforced and said Noe should be removed from the premises.
“When the chairman of this committee goes to Teresa West and gets a court order then I’ll enforce it,” Jarnagin said.
“You’re saying you won’t enforce it without a court order?” Goins asked.
“That’s all I’m going to say to that,” Jarnagin replied.
Commissioners Taylor Ward and Wayne NeSmith, who both voted to approve the police two weeks ago, then asked Goins what the “big deal” was about Noe being able to tape.
Commissioner Howard Shipley, chairman of the full commission, then stepped in and told commissioners the body would seek the counsel of County Attorney Chris Capps.
Noe continued taping at the front of the gallery.
Brittain addressed the committee and, turning to budgetary matter, said there was an estimated surplus of more than $688,000 in revenue from the previous year due to the county being conservative on its estimates.
But even with the surplus, the county still had a deficit of $632,690 for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The committee went line by line through the proposed budget, but made no cuts.
In fact, the committee raised the deficit by $100,000 when it decided to give an additional $100,000 to Morristown Parks and Recreation to help pay for programs and facilities at area parks.
Craig Price, parks and recreation director, had asked for $500,000 from the county, but Brittain’s staff recommended $200,000.
Commissioner Bobby Haun said he felt the parks and recreation department could use the additional funding because he felt like parks were an investment that could pay dividends in additional revenue and help quality of life.
He made a motion to increase funding from $200,000 to $300,000 next fiscal year.
The commission voted 7-5 to approve the expenditure. Voting no were commissioners Goins, NeSmith, Ward, Joe Huntsman and Scotty Long.
With the expenditure, it increased the deficit to about $732,000.
Other highlights of the proposed fiscal year 2019-2020 budget for the county include hiring a full-time codes enforcement officer to operate countywide, increasing the hours of the veterans service officer from three days to four days, hiring a new road crew that will operate on one side of the county, while another crew works the other side and spending $700,000 on paving next fiscal year.
The next meeting for the budget committee will be 5 p.m. June 13 at the Hamblen County Commission.
The commission plans to approve the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget by June 24. The deadline for approving budgets is July1.
Brittain said he would provide options to address the deficit at the next meeting.