The County Commission on Wednesday did not go along with an increase in the travel item of the commission budget from $73,000 to $185,000.
Commissioner Greg Martin made a motion to keep the same $73,000 amount, saying, “We talk about efficiency in government and transparency all the time. This sends the wrong message.”
Commissioner Chester Bankston voted against the motion, but other commissioners did after Greg Beck, who was considered a swing vote, was in support. Commissioner Warren Mackey was absent.
Commissioner Martin said even the current amount is far above what the commissioners actually spend on travel.
Chairman Randy Fairbanks, who submitted the budget request, earlier said he did so after a request from two other commissioners. He did not say which commissioners.
He said he also did so after County Mayor Jim Coppinger indicated there was sufficient funding available for the increase.
With that increase, the budget for the County Commission had been proposed to rise by $111,317 – going from $788,939 to $900,256. The jump is more than 14 percent.
Chairman Fairbanks said the new funds would be for more than travel and could be for special appropriations as deemed appropriate by the various commissioners.
He said an example would be the $1,000 he recently had donated from county funds to the Soddy Daisy Food Bank.
Chairman Fairbanks, commenting on charges that other commissioners were “blindsided” by the budget request, said he would have been violating the Sunshine Law by going to each commissioner and discussing the item.
He said other commission chairmen had not passed around commission budget requests to the other commissioners. He said that was the case when he said Chairman Jim Fields in 2016 put in $898,409 in discretionary money. He said that was a commission budget increase of 121.2 percent.
Chairman Fairbanks said County Mayor Coppinger had vetoed a county budget with $900,000 in commission discretionary funds at a time when there was not sufficient funds to cover that cost.
He said the county mayor advised there is sufficient money to cover the new lower amount of discretionary funds.
Chairman Fairbanks said Commissioner Graham, who seconded the Martin motion, spent the most last year on special district appropriations – giving $30,000 to Normal Park School.