Hamblen County Commission continues budget process

The budget committee of the Hamblen County Commission continued its review of the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget Tuesday, looking at general fund expenditures.

County Mayor Bill Brittain told the commissioners that most departments were flat this year. He said there would be no pay raises, except to elected officials, which is mandated by law.

There are also no capital projects in the general fund.

“All of the capital projects have been removed from the budget,” he said.

Instead of the county spending money on capital projects, it will now wait for money to come in from the state, which was allocated this year. The Tennessee General Assembly approved money to counties and municipalities earlier this year to be used for capital projects. Hamblen County is expected to receive more than $1 million.

The commission is reviewing next year’s fiscal budget on the heels of many businesses being shut down for a month in April due to COVID-19. Brittain has said he expects the April revenues, which the county will receive in just weeks, to be historically low.

Because of that, the county is proposing cuts in its budget and keeping other areas flat with no increases or decreases.

At the start of the budget process, Brittain said the general fund had a $260,000 deficit. There were some changes made to the budget on Tuesday night, which saw increases in funding for a night court clerk and more money for elections as the August primaries and November general elections loom.

Brittain announced that recovery court will be a concern because the director of the program, Barbara Horton, will soon leave that position to become executive director of The Harbor, a new nonprofit that will help domestic violence survivors.

That nonprofit will step in to replace CEASE, which has ended after questionable accounting practices were found by the state.

One part of the budget that could change is pay for elected officials. Brittain said if the general assembly passes a bill that would defer elected officials pay until next year that would save around $35,000.

Tennessee state law requires elected officials get a pay raise and it takes an act from the general assembly to change it.

The budget committee will next hear the Hamblen County Sheriff Department’s budget on Thursday, which is the bulk of the general fund expenditures.